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The Colorado Homebuilding Academy (CHA) was founded three years ago with a mission to work with the construction industry to fill the trade skills gap. To meet this goal, the CHA developed a curriculum and three programs: a boot camp program, a high school program, and a construction management program for community college students. While the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted the construction industry and a majority of firms are not in a position to hire, the CHA has remained committed to its mission and transitioned its boot camp program online.

The CHA’s online construction boot camp through Zoom Cloud meetings allows individuals to attend basic construction classes during the stay-at-home order in Colorado. The typical boot camp program is composed of 16 three-hour sessions spread over four or eight weeks covering hand tools, power tools, safety, and training, and includes career coaching and job fairs, according to director Damon DiFabio. The program saw 236 graduates in 2019. For the online program, the boot camp has been compressed into a three-week program.

“We questioned at first whether people were going to spend the time in an online course, knowing they had less of a promise of a job afterwards,” DiFabio told Remodeling. “But, people spend four years in college without necessarily a promise of a job afterwards, so this is a good time to really focus on their career. We’ve tried to do that through webinars, to offer [students] different insights into different trades and allow them to reflect on where they are and what trade they want to move into.”

In a news release, recruiter Brian Dare said the CHA had seen a “record number of registrants from a variety of backgrounds” for the online boot camp program within 72 hours of launching. The online program includes live instruction with trade professionals, access to online videos and presentations, invitations to career-focused webinars, and access to future career fairs. Participants in the online boot camp will receive an OSHA 10 certification, CHA completion certification, and access to career coaching. Additionally, after the stay-at-home order is lifted, graduating students will be able to attend on-site, hands-on training to complement the online portion of the program.

“One of the things that we are able to do even more effectively because of the online nature of what we do is to connect students with those who they need to develop a relationship with in hopes of getting a job,” Dare told Remodeling. “We’re bringing in professionals from the field and really encouraging students to invest into their network while they have a greater opportunity to do so.”

The CHA program typically attracts individuals from three cohorts, according to Dare: underemployed individuals, individuals with a construction background looking to expand their skills, and individuals looking to shift careers. DiFaibo said while the market isn’t as vibrant for construction workers as it was pre-COVID-19, builders will be looking for trained workers on the other side of the global health crisis.

“There are other training programs out there that help people get a kick start,” Dare said. “We do more than kick start, we want to go all the way into business management and ownership, so we try to cast a vision for a long-term career path from the students that we train.”

To date, the CHA has trained and placed more than 600 people into the construction industry. The organization has inspired similar programs in Huntsville, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn., and DiFabio said there is an interest in expanding the CHA program to other areas of the country with a need to fill the trades gap.