Palm Beach high school construction academies seek to fill Florida’s skilled worker shortage

Updated Jun 5, 2015
Atlantic High School students at work on a home in Delray Beach. Credit: Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach PostAtlantic High School students at work on a home in Delray Beach. Credit: Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post

The Palm Beach County school district has opened three construction academies that are equipping students from ninth through 12th grades with valuable construction skills through real-world, hands-on experience.

According to a report from the Palm Beach Post, academies have opened at high schools in Delray Beach, Loxahatchee and the Glades as construction firms across the state scramble to hire workers with skills and experience.

The schools put students to work building one full-size home each year, and are given instruction in hanging drywall, plumbing and electricity. The students take classes and work on the homes in two-hour blocks each day.

Along the way, they earn certifications from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Center for Construction and Education Research.

While the Delray Beach academy sells its completed homes (sometimes for profit that returns to the school), the Loxahatchee school is building its fourth home for Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s a great program that we would love to expand to other schools,” Bernie Godek of Habitat for Humanity, told the Post. “But the real advantage of the program is for the students. They have to be on track for a diploma and they are presented with opportunities—they can go on to higher education, or, because of their experience, they’re immediately employable.”

Once the students graduate they can immediately begin earning between $9 and $10 at many jobs, the paper reports, but are equipped to quickly launch careers that pay up to $90,000 per year.