CWU News

Students win construction competition; offered jobs on the spot

In a 16-hour cram session, six CWU students estimated material and labor costs, built a work schedule, and addressed on-the-job challenges for a multimillion-dollar construction project.

Then they presented their plan to a panel of judges—which happened to include the contracting firm that actually built the California project.

The firm, Morley Builders, was so impressed with their work, it named CWU the winner of the mixed-use division at the Associated Schools of Construction student competition last month in Nevada. Although CWU has placed first in other divisions, this is the first time a CWU mixed-use team has won in more than 20 years of competing.

Morley also offered jobs to all six team members and donated $1,500 to CWU’s construction management program.

Students (pictured from left) Matt Offe, Kasey Hattrup, Shane Small, Rachael Evans, Salvador Arellanes, and Tanner Wallace, competed against eight other teams from universities in California, Oregon, and Washington.

“When our team was announced the winner it brought a lot of us to tears,” Matt Offe said. “We wanted to win.”

They were coached by Professor Dave Carns (pictured far right), coordinator of CWU’s construction management program, and CWU alumni Rich Wells and Bret Porter of Puyallup-based Absher Construction.

“It was almost like we were set up to win. There was no possible way to fail with the resources that Central provided us,” said Offe, who has a job with Walsh Construction after he graduates in June.

On the morning of the contest, the teams are given a binder and external flash drive with specs to a real construction project. There are subcontractor dilemmas and other challenges, such as materials shortages, built into the exercise.

The goal is to provide the judges an estimate of what the project will cost—from concrete and rebar, to labor and overhead; put together a schedule; and address the challenges.

“It’s odd, because you’re talking to the team that actually built the project,” Offe said.

Rachael Evans, who will work for Mortenson Construction after graduation, said the competition is a bit overwhelming.

“The hotel we stayed at was crawling with students from prestigious universities and recruiters from large construction companies,” Evans said. “We were one of the smallest schools invited to compete. This was something we practiced for all year.”

Evans said the win was a great way to wrap up her college career. “I truly love everyone in this program and appreciate the opportunities that have been available to me,” she said.

Professor Carns, who’s accompanied CWU teams to every ASC student competition, said it’s an important experience to have on a resume.

“When construction students interview for jobs it seems they’re always asked if they participated on a Reno team because employers know how valuable it is,” Carns said.

The Construction Management Program at CWU is accredited by the American Council for Construction Education. Graduates of the program have a nearly 100 percent hiring rate with starting salaries of about $60,000. The program is student-focused with state-of-the-art facilities, small class sizes, and an emphasis on hands-on labs.

Media contact: Barb Arnott, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-2841,

March 7, 2016