One man’s dream builds College of Construction

Years ago, Dan Graham had a dream – to create a school that trained people for the construction trade. See how his dream became a reality on April 17

Hundreds turned out for the opening ceremonies of a college dedicated to teaching people building skills.

Story and Photos by David F. Ashton

How do you build things ‚Äì bridges, homes, office buildings and supporting infrastructure like water, sewer and electric power ‚Äì if there’s a shortage of trained workers?

The President of the new construction college, Dan Graham, speaks at the ceremony marking the opening of the new school in Parkrose.

More than three years ago, Dan Graham, then Director of Workforce at Associated General Contractors (AGC), had an idea. “It seemed logical,” Graham said, “to bring together the diverse training programs operated by the construction and contracting groups under one roof.” Through Graham’s efforts, the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland, the Associated Builders and Contractors, and the National Utility Contractors Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington joined with AGC to start a comprehensive “building arts school” in Parkrose called Northwest College of Construction (NWCC).

On April 17, NWCC officially opened its doors. About two hundred people attended the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony.

Representatives of Associated Builders and Contractors, Northwest Chapter; Oregon-Columbia Chapter; Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland; and the National Utility Contractors Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington join Dan Graham, president of the new Northwest College of Construction at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Officials speak

Speaking on behalf of the National Utility Contractors Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington, Bill Martinak of Emery & Sons told the gathering, “Training our future workforce is not only a local, but also national concern for all construction industries. We are extremely excited to have this college in place to help with training. No one will do this for us. If we don’t step up and put something like this college in place, no one will do it for us.”

Talking about AGC’s role, the organization’s vice president, Todd Hess, told the gathering, “Workforce development is one of our greatest needs. This school fills that need. AGC contributed a lot to this program, including giving up training director, Dan Graham, to make this happen. Dan showed how it would help us all to have a combined training program.”

In an exclusive interview after the ribbon cutting ceremony, Graham told us, “The most important thing about this day is how such a diverse industry to agree to work together to make this happen. It took a lot of work by a lot of people to make this day possible. I’m so glad we were able to make this happen.”

Partnering with local schools

This college plans to expand beyond its walls, according to Graham. “Schools in Portland Public, Parkrose, and David Douglas districts have expressed interest in having a building arts program partnership with us,” he told us. Additionally, NWCC is creating partnerships with education-to-work services like SE Works.

Community training available

If an individual wants to learn basic constructions skills, he or she should check out NWCC’s community educational programs, said the school’s director of employment services, Guy Crawford. “Whether you want a career in construction, or just want to learn how to build a deck on your home ‚Äì you can learn it here at NWCC.”

Learn while you earn

“NWCC brings together many apprentice programs under one roof,” Crawford added. “Anyone who wants to work and learn can get into our work/study programs.” Often, he said, students will work on a jobsite during the day, and take classes in the evening.

The NWCC campus is located at 8111 NE Holman St. The easiest way to get there is by going north from Columbia Blvd. on Holman ‚Äì the “access road” that runs on the west side of NE 82nd Ave. Learn more: Call the school at (503) 256-7300, or see for more information.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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