As labor-strapped remodelers and builders get serious about attracting new blood to the field, “growing your own” is taking on new meaning.
In Southern California, the Santa Barbara Contractors Association (SBCA) has teamed up with Santa Barbara City College to create what SBCA's 340 members hope will evolve into a full “academy” of for-credit classes producing 150 new construction workers each year.
The first class, Construction Management 110, emphasizes residential wood construction skills and concepts. Its January debut was so well-received that a second class was needed for the overflow. Around 60 students are enrolled, according to SBCA executive director Karen Perissinotto.
Demand for workers is crushing in Santa Barbara, Perissinotto says, noting members' “particular frustration” at the cancellation of high school shop classes. “There was nowhere to send these kids, yet we would be invited to speak at career fairs” to students who had no structured way to learn the business, she says.
The class took root several years ago and was fleshed out in meetings between SBCA members and college administrators. Members volunteer to teach the class, which consists of a weeknight in the classroom and a weekend lab. One member also donated $20,000 worth of tools to the effort.
This is just the beginning, Perissinotto says. “We're talking about building it out to include construction management, supervisor training, individual modules on electrical or plumbing ... We had to start somewhere.”
Attacking the problem on a national basis, the Home Builders Institute (HBI) of the National Association of Home Builders launched its “Make It Happen” career outreach campaign in January.
The campaign ( www.buildingcareers.org) targets several audiences, says Deanna Lewis, HBI's manager for career services. Home builders and remodelers can learn how to partner with schools. Parents and teachers can learn about the industry as an increasingly professional career option. And students can learn about various positions, required training, and average compensations. The program also targets high school guidance counselors, Lewis says. “We want them to know that the industry is moving from the skilled trades to real, professional positions.”