The Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs has received a grant from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to grow its Careers in Construction program, a nonprofit workforce development program that trains high school students for jobs in the building trades.
The association will use the grant to build upon the success of the program, which was developed by the HBA, Associated General Contractors of Colorado and area high schools.
Wendy Clark, HBA workforce development program coordinator, was hired mid-February to increase funding for and enrollment in the program, as well as to build industry relationships, facilitate job opportunities and serve as a spokesperson for the initiative.
“The Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting that employment opportunities in the construction industry will increase as much as 11 percent through 2026,” Clark said. She noted that many construction employees are reaching retirement age, and there are not enough new skilled employees to replace them.
“Right now, there is going to be a drastic shortage here in the next couple of years,” she said. “Our aim is to get students into the workforce with certifications in their trades.”
Until now, the program has been supported by donations from local construction and trade businesses.
The additional funding has enabled the HBA to launch an expanded regional campaign to promote Careers in Construction.
The initiative includes a new website, GoBuildCO.com, the centerpiece of the campaign to encourage ninth through 12th grade students to sign up for classes and learn about trade careers.
The website also will serve as a job placement platform for students and employers, extend the program to more schools and garner more support from construction and trade businesses.
“This is a win for everybody,” HBA CEO Renee Zentz said. “We’ve got a bigger megaphone to tell students about how shop class give them personal pride, skills they can use their whole life and even a new career or path to higher education. Many of the successful professionals in the industry today started their careers this very way—in the classroom. To see a program like this reviving that opportunity in our community is very exciting.”
In previous years, shop classes were phased out of the high school curriculum, leaving students with interests and talents in trade skills without a career path to the construction industry.
The result: a skilled labor shortage in the Pikes Peak region that was exacerbated by the economic downturn in 2008. Now that the real estate market is red-hot, the lack of skilled workers is contributing to the sharp rise in home prices.
By 2014, HBA member focus groups were expressing significant concerns about the labor shortage during the association’s strategic planning process.
The organization created a workforce development committee was created to develop a program that would provide options for students considering careers in the construction industry, and the next year the HBA launched Careers in Construction.
Through Careers in Construction, the association partners with school districts, industry professionals, trades and associations, and schools and colleges to provide training programs in the tools and basic skills for plumbing, electrical work, HVAC and carpentry.
The curriculum is based on training programs developed by the Home Builders Institute, the educational arm of the National Association of Home Builders.
Upon completion of the program, students may earn pre-apprentice certificates that will help them get jobs immediately after high school graduation, or they may decide to further their education at trade schools or traditional colleges.
“We also help fund the program with materials,” Clark said. “We are working with four school districts right now.”
More than 300 students at six schools are enrolled in the Careers in Construction program.
Goals of the program include:
• demonstrating to teens, their families and community leaders the value of learning a trade;
• offering job, internship and apprentice opportunities to young people who want careers in the trades;
• engaging businesses in supporting the program; and
• rebuilding a skilled construction industry workforce and helping the industry grow.