If you’ve been keeping up on the news in Colorado’s residential sector, you’ve probably noticed that the state (and most of the nation) is experiencing a housing shortage. In 2018 alone, the Denver Post has reported that Denver may have a deficit of up to 32,000 homes and apartments this year, how builders can’t keep up with the demand for new homes, and the crisis of the lack of affordable housing, not to mention the fact that across the entire United States, the number of new homes built will fall 300,000 short of demand in 2018. As more and more people move to our beautiful state, the larger the strain on our home builders become. This problem is compounded by the fact that there is a labor shortage of skilled laborers in the home-building market.
How did we find ourselves here? Why is there such a profound lack of skilled laborers? As with so many things, there are many reasons for this shortage that include an aging of the skilled workforce, low unemployment, and layoffs that occurred during the last recession. Or perhaps it’s an optics problem: women represent less than 10% of the construction industry and, traditionally, women may not be encouraged to seek careers in the construction industry.
Luckily, one of our clients, Oakwood Homes, stepped up (via their foundation, “BuildStrong Education”) and helped to create the Colorado Homebuilding Academy. Not only does the Academy offer courses such as ‘Basics in Concrete’ and ‘Construction Estimating, but’ it also has whole programs focused towards current high-school students and adults who have an interest in starting a career in Colorado’s construction industry. The Academy is also open to those who already work in the industry and want to improve their skills.
One of these programs is the Academy’s Youth Construction Apprenticeship program. Young adults who are currently enrolled in participating high schools or who have recently graduated from high school are eligible to enroll in an intensive program that starts in the classroom, transitions to the Academy’s in-house hands-on training, and culminates in an in-field internship with a partnering subcontractor. The best part is that, if these students are currently in high-school, the student is sponsored for the entire cost of tuition. Some of the courses that these students take are college accredited, and they can earn scholarships to select colleges in the Denver Metro area if they so choose. Once they have completed their in-house training, the students must interview with subcontractors to get their internship, which helps prepare them for full-time employment. Not only is the tuition often covered, but the internships are paid so that students can start making money right out of high school. Once their internship is over, the apprentices can apply to work for the same contractor or move on and apply for other high-paying positions. However, the Academy acknowledges the importance of a high school education, which is why students are required to graduate high school to remain in the program. To help struggling students, the academy offers assistance to students so that they can recover credits that they have previously failed or they may be allowed to test out of other courses.
Another exciting program the Academy offers is the Construction Skills Bootcamp. This program is great for those currently in the construction industry looking to improve upon their skills or for those who are looking to change their career into the industry. Students learn about OSHA safety requirements, receive basic training in the trade of their choice, and gather career support and networking opportunities. This program is also free to any student who is committed to a career in Colorado’s construction industry. Depending on which scheduling option works best for students, the program takes anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks to complete.
EVstudio is committed to staying abreast in what is happening in the construction industry, which is why we were so excited at the opportunity to tour the Academy’s facilities (located in Precision Building System’s warehouse). We were able to meet some of the students and faculty and learn about what they do. A young man, who I had the opportunity to talk with, was working his way through the Youth Construction Apprenticeship program. He was happy that he had finally found something he enjoyed after feeling for years that ‘school wasn’t for him.’ He had the opportunity to start his apprenticeship where he felt like he was learning skills that would help him after high school graduation. The Academy was working closely with the high school he was enrolled in to help him test out of courses that he had previously failed so that he could graduate on-time. He was excited to begin his internship with a contractor and said that, because of what he learned at the Academy, he wants to work his way up to be a site superintendent and, one day, start a construction firm. I hope that the Academy can continue to work with other students like him to not only bring in more skilled labor into the construction industry, but to also provide a sense of meaning and direction to those who may not ‘fit in’ to the traditional mold of going to college right out of high school. Alternatively, after working in the field, these students may which to pursue a career in the Architecture or Engineering fields, where they could become a highly knowledgeable team member at EVstudio. Whatever path you’d like to take in your career, the Colorado Homebuilding Academy is an amazing, local way to get your foot in the door.