WNC opens first four-year degree program today
Classes for Western Nevada College’s first four-year, bachelor’s degree program begin today.
The subject: Construction management.
Jerold Stegeman, who was hired from a similar program in Nebraska, said professional construction managers are badly needed, especially in rapidly growing states like Nevada.
“Nationally, we need about twice as many students as we’re producing,” he said.
But it’s also a boon for the college.
“This is a huge advance for the college and for the community,” Stegeman said. “And this being the first bachelor’s program, there’s a lot of desire to make this succeed.”
Contrary to what many people think, he said, construction management isn’t really the guy in charge of the tradesmen actually building a house or business. The construction manager, he said, handles everything from cost estimating to scheduling of different materials and sub-contractors, safety issues and cost accounting.
He said the course of study is different from the trades taught at WNC, but that construction management students need some of those classes as well because they have to understand how the project is put together.
And many of the students, he said, are skilled workers already in the building trades.
He said it’s a job that requires a lot of training.
“Take a casino,” he said. “Managing the construction of a casino, you’re going to have hundreds of subcontractors, hundreds of vendors. That takes skills in scheduling, estimates, cost controls.”
But, he said, construction managers don’t just build homes and businesses. He said they are also needed to build highways, dams, industrial plants and other major projects.
In the past, he said, construction managers were often engineers – including himself. Stegeman has a Ph.D. from University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Civil and Environmental Engineering. But an engineering background doesn’t provide everything a construction manager needs.
He said this program is aimed directly at the skills needed to manage construction projects.
Students who enter the program, Stegeman said, will take a wide variety of classes in topics from blueprint reading to construction materials and methods, estimating and building codes. They’ll study drafting, soils, site preparation and testing, plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems.
But they’ll also take accounting and other business classes, human resource management, site safety, environmental and construction law.
The reward for those who complete the four years: A job that could pay up to $100,000 a year.
Stegeman, 50, said he took the job running WNC’s program because of the challenge of starting and developing a new program. But, he said, western Nevada was also a strong draw.
“I was on the ski team in college. I have a sailboat, a motorcycle. I love four-wheeling, venturing into the desert. You can see with my interests, there’s just nothing here for me,” he joked.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.