HBA Workforce Development Program Wins State Funding

Filed in Labor, Safety and Health, Student Chapters by on November 29, 2017 5 Comments

sawThe HBA of Colorado Springs has been awarded $587,276 from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to bolster its Careers in Construction program.

Launched in 2015 with a dozen students in one high school, this award-winning program has grown to six schools and involved more than 500 students. Careers in Construction has an ever-strengthening partnership with CSHBA members, community colleges and even trade unions to graduate more students with HBI PACT (pre-apprenticeship certified training) certification and a head start on a well-paying job.

“It takes committed home builders and their trade partners, willing community leaders, a consistent source of income and open-minded group of educators to make a program like Careers in Construction a success,” said George C. Hess III, founder and CEO of Vantage Homes Corp. and chair of the CSHBA Workforce Development Council.

“It has to start at a local level, and you have to have people who aren’t waiting for someone else to help, but the nature of our industry is to go out and make things happen,” Hess said.

El Paso County leaders have been supportive of a new voluntary program in which both commercial contractors and residential builders and remodelers can make donations to Careers in Construction when they pull a building permit. “For the minimal investment that we are making — 150 permits at 25 bucks a pop [for his own company in a typical year] — we have an opportunity to offer young people a career path in this industry,” Hess said.

The money collected pays for curriculum, books, tools, consumable materials and instructor stipends. The curriculum is developed by HBI, NAHB’s workforce development arm.

Long involved in construction job training programs for returning veterans, at-risk students and Job Corps participants, HBI is placing increased emphasis on high school and community college training programs as part of a new workforce development strategy to address the nationwide shortage.

There are many great opportunities for students participating in the Careers in Construction vocational education program. They can receive articulation credits for the construction technology program at the local community college if they want to pursue higher education. If not, the local industry is hungry to hire them.

The students graduate knowing considerably more than “what end of a hammer to hold, such as OSHA 10 and employee soft skills, and are much more ready for a formal apprenticeship program than my trade partners had been used to seeing apply for jobs,” Hess said.

2x6sThe grant means the HBA can boost its outreach efforts to both students and prospective employers, said April Hess, workforce development coordinator for the Colorado Springs HBA. And that is where growing the program itself comes in, she said. “We want to expand, and when we broadcast through the media outlets we will reach Pueblo, Trinidad, Durango and a lot of smaller cities where the HBAs are looking to start up a program based on the model that we have created,” she said.

“Eventually, we can provide resources [on starting and maintaining similar programs] to HBAs nationwide,” she said, and already, EOs in other states are contacting Colorado Springs to see how to get a similar program started.

NAHB Student Chapters are noticing as well. “Hats off to these Colorado Springs members and for their workforce development efforts in our state. We will all benefit from this important model,” said Eric A. Holt, chair of the NAHB Student Chapter Advisory Board and a University of Denver construction management professor.

The more the Careers in Construction initiative grows, the easier it will be to win over what is often the hardest audience to reach: parents.

“At the end of the day, one of our bigger missions needs to be educating employers, educators and more importantly parents and students as to what the opportunities are in the construction industry,” George Hess said. “There are parents who are really embracing what is going on but we have folks who have no idea what people can make in this industry as a master carpenter or plumber. There is a big gap being left for kids that are not going on to college and we need to educate folks as to what the opportunities are.”

And the ultimate measure of success? Having so many kids interested in residential and commercial construction jobs that advocacy programs aren’t needed anymore, he said. Programs will maintain themselves because demand will be so high. “That will be the day that moms and dads say. ‘We need to have this,’ and then we [the Workforce Development Council] are out of business,” Hess said.

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  1. This is exactly what we should be doing in OKLA

  2. kim shanahan says:

    Renee Zentz is superstar Executive Officer showing the way for so many of us who need these kinds of programs in our areas.

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