Training Boise’s Builders from Classroom to Skyline

Photo of Tyler Sisson in Front of Fine Arts Building
Tyler Sisson, an ESI project coordinator, and Boise State Construction Management graduate. John Kelly photo.

From the soaring Zions Bank building, which stands as the tallest building in Idaho, to the eye-catching Center for the Visual Arts taking shape on the west end of Boise State’s campus, the students and alumni of the university’s construction management program have helped build the Boise skyline from the ground up since 1976.

According to Forbes Magazine, Boise was the fastest growing city in 2018. Idaho is one of the two fastest growing states in the nation (alongside Nevada), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Predictably, construction management positions are in high demand. These positions require people with leadership skills, technological training and a foundation in the business side of construction, to guide projects from inception to completion, on time, safely and on budget.

“In today’s construction industry, managers have to be able to use software for scheduling, cost accounting, document control and building modeling. They have to be tech-savvy. We have billion-dollar projects out there: if you’re the superintendent on that project, you’re not wearing a toolbelt and swinging a hammer. You are managing a thousand-person work staff,” said Casey Cline, associate professor and chair of the construction management program.

The program currently enrolls 265 students and places nearly 100 percent of its graduates in jobs. The majority of students find internships before they start their senior year with some of the largest and most reputable construction firms in the state.

Headshot of Anna Sparrell
Alumna Anna Sparrell, vice president for CM Company, Inc.

“Boise State University’s construction management students are heavily recruited, known for their work ethic, practical expertise and ability to lead a project in the field.”

– Anna Sparrell, vice president for CM Company Inc.

As an undergraduate, Sparrell first studied architecture, then civil engineering, but, “I wasn’t sold on either degree. Then I came across the construction management option. I liked the thought of taking the design and making it a reality,” she said. After job shadowing the founder of CM Company Inc. Sparrell knew construction management was what she had been looking for and graduated with the degree in 2003.

“Alumni hold positions from CEO, president, owner, project manager, project engineer, superintendent all the way to intern,” said Sparrell.

Tyler Sisson, a 2012 alumnus of the program and project manager for Engineered Structures Inc. (ESI) recalls the day he decided to join the program – it began with students playing out an on-the-job scenario of setting up the formwork for a concrete wall. Poorly.

“Casey (Cline) was running them through the ringer. It was an accurate portrait of what some construction sites look like absent of guidance and leadership,” Sisson said. Without capable leadership, “deadlines slip, quality goes out the window and safety becomes a major concern.
Right then and there, I decided that I wanted ‘in’.”

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Associate Professor Casey Cline and a College of Engineering Construction Management 111 class, photo Patrick Sweeney

After completing his degree while working part time at ESI, Sisson pitched the idea of starting an internship program with the company. That internship program is now in its fourth year, and has provided real-world industry experience for 26 Boise State construction management students.

To date, more than 80 percent of ESI interns that are offered employment upon graduating join the team as full time employees, said Sisson.

“The construction management program has a legacy in Boise and beyond for supplying a needed, talented workforce,” said College of Engineering Dean JoAnn Lighty. “In addition, our faculty are providing skills for our students to be, and become, the leaders in the construction industry.”

“I’d love to see Boise stay small but our industry thrives on growth and it provides more opportunities for Idahoans,” said Sisson. “We understand that with any company or any community, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.”