By Steve Lestarjette

The Texas Gulf Coast economy is red hot. Thanks to new technology, petrochemical plants are expanding, creating jobs inside the refineries and jobs for contractors. Add to that the fact that the Panama Canal will soon reopen, sending larger ships and additional cargo to the Port of Houston.

Other industries are having to expand to keep up with demand. Industrial storage systems, such as oil and gas storage tanks and the pipelines that connect them, are under construction. Transportation systems—from railroads to barges to marine ports, are increasing capacity, too.

Experts say it is possible that Houston’s energy and manufacturing sectors will be in “growth mode” for another 30 years.

With construction comes the need for industrial scaffold builders, the men and women who put in place the platforms that allow construction or maintenance to proceed on large petrochemical projects, or high rise office buildings, or massive storage facilities, or ocean-going vessels.

According to S&B Engineers and Constructors, more than 7,000 scaffold helpers are needed now—so many that a “consortium of scaffold building companies recently asked HCC to help find and train individuals for scaffold building positions.

The first class opened in January 2016, and others are scheduled to run virtually “end-to-end” through the year.

The Industrial Scaffold Builder program at Houston Community College is an 80-hour fast-track training program that prepares students for certification.

During the two-week program, students identify, inspect, erect, dismantle, rack and stack the most common industrial scaffolding systems including the Cup Lock, Pin Lock, Excel and Safway systems.

Upon mastery of course knowledge, skills and abilities, students sit for the Industrial Scaffolding Committee (ISC) certification, consisting of a knowledge-based assessment and a performance-based skills assessment.

Based on past experience, certification often results in entry into the industry at a higher career level than a non-skilled laborer.

In Houston, scaffolding helpers typically earn $13 without certification. With training and certification, workers typically earn $15.

A scaffold is an elevated platform used in construction so craftsmen can reach their work. An entry-level industrial scaffold builder erects scaffolds within the oil and gas industry and installs the bracing to stabilize frames. The builder is also responsible for loading and unloading tools, materials, and equipment, weighing up to 50 lbs. from trucks and trailers to the worksite.

The position may require climbing up to 200 feet or more.

Employment outlook is excellent. With so many positions now available, graduates have a high expectation of employment with one of several area scaffolding companies.

Classes are taught at the HCC Warehouse.

For more information, contact Kris Hardwick, director of CE Industrial Technology/Energy, at 713-718-2680, or [email protected].

To get started, submit an application online at hccs.edu/application.