Citing high demand among local employers, Missouri State wants to significantly expand its construction management program. But to do so it needs more space.
In hopes that the state will help fund the expansion, the university has requested $2 million from the MoExcels Workforce Initiative to add onto Kemper Hall and establish a construction education and training hub.
If the funding is approved in the upcoming legislative session, MSU would then match that amount, or more, with operating reserve funds or private donations.
The total project is estimated at $4.2 million.
“Historically, we’ve had more employers looking for our graduates than we’ve had graduates,” said David Meinert, dean of the MSU College of Business.
“There are currently over 40 construction-related firms on the advisory board for the construction management department and they’re all desperate for more talent.”
In the fall, the program had 242 majors. “We’ve increased that over the last five years by 13% but we feel like we can do even more,” Meinert said.
If funding for expansion is approved, the program plans to grow enrollment by 50%.
“Because we are space-constrained currently, it would be impossible to significantly increase the number of majors in the program without this additional space,” Meinert said.
The working plan is to renovate part of Kemper Hall and add onto the west side to create open spaces, which are lacking at this time.
The hub will provide extra classroom and lab space where students can gain hands-on experience with construction equipment and tools.
It will also provide space for training people in the region already employed in the construction trades.
Increased focus on recruiting women, under-represented groups into program
Richard Gebken, head of the construction management department, said interest in the program has been fueled by job opportunities and starting salary.
Graduates of the program have some of the highest average starting salaries of any major on campus — more than $60,000 annually.
“Students that come here realize that they are looking at very high career prospects after graduation. So, that is a big driver,” Gebken said. “The nature of the industry and the work, there is a sense of satisfaction that students are getting … It’s very physical, very connected to things that you can see and point to when they are done.”
Gebken said the program has experienced a major overhaul in the past two decades.
“The industry support that we have recognizes this development and the growth and strength of the program,” he said. “We’re building up the strong reputation in the region, the state and, to some extent, nationally.”
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Meinert said the planned expansion will include increasing efforts to recruit women and individuals from under-represented groups.
“We’ve already started this. We’ve made a commitment. We’ve been to St. Louis twice to events that are tied to the construction industry,” he said. “One of the keys is to do more recruiting in Kansas City and St. Louis, in addition to southwest Missouri.”
Funding will depend on governor, state legislators
In early January, MSU officials will be listening closely to see if Gov. Mike Parson includes the MoExcels funding for the program in his proposed budget. A final budget is expected by the time the legislative session ends in May.
If the funding is approved, MSU plans to break ground by July 1 and complete the addition within a year.
Kemper Hall, built in 1976, is home to the department of physics, astronomy and materials science as well as the College of Business’ construction management and mechanical engineering technology programs. It also houses laboratories for the geography, geology and planning department.
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The MSU Board of Governors voted Dec. 15 to enter a contract with Trivers Associates for $298,300 — paid for by the President’s Program Enhancement Fund and provost one-time funding — to design the addition, which is expected to be at least 4,000 square feet.
“We’ve talked, in general, in terms of needing more open space. We would like 1-1/2 to 2 stories interior to be able to bring equipment in. We need an large exterior door,” Meinert said.
Claudette Riley covers education for the News-Leader. Email tips and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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