“From a Mason’s Trowel to a Laptop”
Scott Ampe received his baccalaureate degree in construction management in the fall of 2005, after nearly a decade of toggling between the labor force and college. In 1993, just out of high school, Scott began work as a mason, pouring concrete in Denver, Colo., but it didn't take long for him to decide that this wasn't what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
In 1996, Scott moved back to Marquette and started taking general education courses at Northern Michigan University, trying to decide on a plan of study. During this time, he worked a union labor job, and after a couple of semesters, Scott stopped taking classes and worked full-time in the bricklayer’s union. Although the wages were adequate, he couldn't ignore the drawbacks. Not only were the seasonal layoffs worrisome, Scott was always looking toward the next level—to move from “laborer to bricklayer, bricklayer to foreman”—and the process of laddering within the system was too slow. With no higher education, moving into a management position would be impossible.
In the fall of 1999, Scott re-enrolled at NMU, taking winter courses as he could, and eventually he decided upon a degree in construction management. Over the next few years, Scott studied full-time at NMU’s School of Technology and Applied Sciences and began a family. He supported his wife and children and was self-employed laying concrete. Certainly this balancing act was no small task, but Scott was able to come through ahead.
A year from his graduation, Scott knew that he needed an internship in his field to be marketable once he’d completed his degree, and he was fortunate to be assigned a position working for Turner Construction on the Lambeau Field renovation project in Green Bay, Wis. At Lambeau, Scott worked on a team that managed all of the building and contracted out the trades work. Not only does Scott remember this internship fondly, it was this experience, coupled with his degree in construction management, which secured him a job.
After completing his degree, Scott went to work for Turner Construction full time as a superintendent in field operations, and he doesn’t worry anymore. “There are no layoffs, and I’m excited to go work everyday,” Scott says. After much hard work and dedication, Scott has found the payoff.
Now, when Scott and his team recruit for full-time positions, they look for candidates “with a baccalaureate degree, construction experience in trades and an internship with extracurricular commitment.” In the same way that Scott “went from carrying a mason’s trowel to carrying a laptop,” his team is interested in individuals who are “able to wear a tool belt as well as a suit.”
Wanting to help prepare future students for this exciting trade, Scott says that the “absolute thing to do is to gain construction experience in the summer, and although it might take longer, going for a four-year degree over a two-year is so substantial.” Scott knows that the extra time and struggle is worth it. He couldn’t have gained the status, or the happiness, he has without his education.