While construction cranes garner significant attention around Colorado Springs, the industry faces shortages for qualified workers, according to the Associated General Contractors’ 2015 National Workforce Survey. The survey said 86 percent of firms in the nation have difficulty filling job openings and 95 percent of Colorado firms report workforce challenges.

As a result, the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs and the AGC of Colorado joined forces to support the Careers in Construction project. The nonprofit workforce development initiative helps area high school with curriculum-based training that is certified by the Home Builders Institute, the educational arm of the National Association of Homebuilders.

Courses teach youth skills in plumbing, electrical, heating-and-air-conditioning repair and carpentry. The project gives viable alternatives to students not seeking a college degree. Wages for skilled labor ranges from $60,000 annually for a carpenter to $70,000 a year as a mason.

The project will help high school students find summer jobs and apprenticeships.

Funding for the program comes from a voluntary fee for every building permit from $6 for a home remodel job to $50 for new commercial construction and remodel projects valued at $20,000 or more.

Building the next generation of construction workers starts with education, the AGC said in a news release.

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“Programs like these lay the foundation to positively affect the future of Colorado’s infrastructure and support the growth of one of the fastest growing areas in the nation,” said Michael Gifford, president and CEO of AGC.

The shortage of construction workers is “everywhere,” said Marla Novak, spokeswoman for the HBA.

The program is offered to all high schools in the region. The program is an initiative to to facilitate and support local high schools in their construction-based educational programs to expose those students to a viable construction field.

In one school, students “work part-time building walls and bird houses and all other construction projects, and the other part, they work on their classwork,” Novak said. “We find often that they will do better in their classwork when they are involved in a vocational program.

“We’re excited about that. The kids do better. They feel like they have a purpose.”

The Careers in Construction program was launched in School District 2 and 49, with District 11 starting the program in the autumn, Novak said.

 

  • If the building and construction industries are experiencing worker shortages at all it is because this industry is disregarding and disposing of senior workers who already have the experience and skill they need. These industries have also rolled over to government and insurance company pressure that new hires must be able to pass background checks, credit checks, drug tests, certification tests and citizenship tests. These improper and intrusive requirements demand that workers have a squeaky clean and an untarnished job history. One of the reasons older workers have the experience and skill that employers need is because they have lived a life and made the mistakes that educate any human how to handle themselves personally and professionally. And even when that experience empowers older workers to not take any crap off a smart young supervisor there is value to be found there as well. Corporations can try and exploit new and ignorant workers if they like. And that is their prerogative that will produce an inferior product and continue to undermine the middle class of our nation.