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Fateful stop at ATM leads Lovett to Nicolet’s Architectural Technology program

Feb. 7, 2014

Interior decorator Gail Lovett didn’t have any immediate plans to back to go college – until one day when she was standing at an ATM and saw a poster for the Architectural Technology program offered at Nicolet College.

arch tech“I got excited right away,” Lovett said. “I love the concept of home and everything that goes into creating a home. I saw it as a great fit for me and a good way for me to expand the skills and talents that I can offer clients.”

Lovett is set to graduate from the two-year associate degree program this May and then hopes to land a job with a local builder.

And the chances of that happening look to be excellent, according to Jeff Labs, Nicolet Architectural Technology instructor.

This winter Labs has been getting about a call a week from employers looking to hire students in the program.

“It’s just been incredible,” Labs said. “The outlook for employment for our graduates is looking fantastic.”

This is a far cry from the situation in 2008 and 2009 when the Recession hit and the construction industry tanked. Firms were shelling out employees in order to cut costs in order to survive.

Today, with economic conditions steadily improving “these companies are now looking to restaff,” Labs said. “The job market for people with these skills is quickly gaining strength in the Northwoods and across the entire state.”

Many second-year students are already working part-time in the business and the prospects look good for anyone wanting a job getting a job. 

While the improving economy has been a big factor in the employment picture, Labs explained that changes in the Architectural Technology field and a new curriculum that is taught in the classroom have also been factors.

For many, images of blueprints, 3D computer models, and mathematical formulas to calculate any number of functions probably come to mind when they think of the field.

While students still study all of these things, that’s only part of story.

“The field has really evolved into a science all of its own,” Labs said. “Homes and other structures are actually quite dynamic. There’re a lot going on. Different processes, different dynamics and that’s why we take an integrated approach and incorporate building science into every class. This goes well beyond aesthetics and simply designing a structure that looks nice.”

A major trend in the industry today is to look at how a structure, be it a home, office, or factory, affects the health of the people living and working in it. A big factor is indoor air quality.

“The average person will spend 90 percent of their life indoors and never think twice about indoor air quality,” Labs said. “But studies have shown that it is common for indoor air quality to be three to five times worse than outside air. Part of what we teach students is how to design structures that have healthy indoor air quality.”

Another new trend is the number of females entering the field. Of the 20 students in Nicolet’s Architectural Technology program, eight are women.

“It was very encouraging to see that,” Lovett said. “I think women bring an added perspective to the field. A lot of people think it is a male-dominated field, but it is not at all anymore.”

Nearing graduation, she added that she has been “very pleased” with her experience at Nicolet.

“From time to time I think back and wonder what it would be like if I hadn’t seen that poster and if I hadn’t enrolled in the program. I can’t even imagine. It’s been great and it looks like things will only get better.”