Ten years old, Myers-Lawson School of Construction is breaking new ground in industry leadership
Jade McNair doesn’t graduate until December 2017, but she’s already entertaining job offers from employers eager to attract a Virginia Tech Myers-Lawson School of Construction graduate.
“It’s overwhelming in a good way,” said the building construction major from Columbia, South Carolina. “Instead of competing for a job, it’s like the job market is competing for me.”
That’s exactly what the school’s founding donors and namesakes, A. Ross Myers and John R. Lawson II, envisioned when they helped start the school in 2006. A decade later, their names are synonymous not only with two prominent construction companies, but also with the success of over 600 Virginia Tech Myers-Lawson School of Construction graduates now leading the way in the construction industry.
“It’s literally a dream come true for me,” said Ross Myers, chairman and CEO of Allan Myers Inc. and a 1972 graduate of Virginia Tech’s civil engineering program. “Our vision was to be a beacon of excellence in the construction industry and in the education community. This school, its faculty, staff, and students are fulfilling that vision and carrying it forward in the best way possible.”
Over the past decade, the school has increased enrollment 75 percent, tripled female graduation rates, and consistently boasted a 100 percent employment rate for students prior to graduation. It has also forged strong industry ties, launching partnerships, internships, and career fairs that connect students with some of construction’s biggest names. Through collaborations with W.M. Jordan and Hourigan Construction, for example, students have honed skills in virtual construction and 4-D building information modeling on real-world building projects. The school’s recent fall career fair attracted over 100 companies from across the nation to meet and interview over 500 students.
“The demand for our students is just incredible,” said Lawson, president and CEO of W.M. Jordan Company Inc., a 1975 geophysics graduate of Virginia Tech’s College of Science, and a major employer of Virginia Tech graduates himself. “When you’re placing 100 percent of the graduating students, who have multiple offers, that is the truest indicator of success, in my opinion.”
The school arose from a 2006 joint venture between the Department of Building Construction in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the Vecellio Construction Engineering and Management Program in the College of Engineering’s Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Students benefit from integrated engineering and construction curriculum, faculty, research, and industry partnerships. They leave with a broad understanding of the business, technology, construction and production management skills needed to lead and thrive on today’s job sites. Before graduation, most students complete an average of three internships, many of which lead to jobs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction industry jobs will grow 10 percent to 7.2 million jobs by 2024 – faster than the average for all occupations. The growth is fueled by a rising population – creating new demand for infrastructure that integrates emerging technologies into buildings, roads, and other human environments.
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, Myers-Lawson School Director Brian Kleiner said, “Our vision to be a beacon of excellence means we will strive to anticipate and deliver whatever the industry is going to require in the future, and be the best for our students, sponsors, and employers. Currently, we are emphasizing human-centered intelligent infrastructure.”
A fundraising campaign is underway to build an Intelligent Infrastructure and Construction Complex and also enable the expansion of Myers-Lawson, among other projects. A $5 million commitment from the Hitt Family has laid the foundation for the work to commence.
“In our school’s first 10 years, Myers-Lawson students made the construction industry stand up and take notice,” Kleiner said. “In the next 10 years, our students will be at the forefront of leading the global effort to advance and revolutionize the industry.”