Federal grant to promote construction trades

To combat an anticipated worker shortage, construction industry organizations have teamed up with the Department of Labor to launch a national initiative to increase awareness of career opportunities in the skilled trades.

“Skills to Build America’s Future,” a partnership between the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Heavy & Highway Alliance, and the Construction Industry Round Table, is a wide-ranging public education program that includes school partnerships, sports leagues sponsorships, and TV and radio ad campaigns, all designed to improve the profile of construction occupations.

This month the DOL and the Associated General Contractors of America took another step forward with the announcement of a $235,500 grant to fund the creation of eight new Construction Career Academies across the country.

Both the grant and the public education campaign are part of the federal High-Growth Job Training Initiative, which focuses on high-growth industries where specialized skills training needs to be developed or improved.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that between 2002 and 2012, the non-residential construction industry will create nearly 1 million new jobs, making it one of the top 10 areas of job growth. According to a 2005 DOL report, delayed replacement or renovation of industrial infrastructure is just one reason the jobs will be there. An explosion of nursing homes and assisted-living facility construction is also expected as baby boomers age. Then there are schools to build for the children of the “echo” boom generation. Add to that the expected growth in highway, bridge, and street construction, maintenance and repair.

“AGC will use these grant dollars to help train the future workforce of the construction industry,” AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr said in a statement. “Career academies have proven that they prepare students for the workforce by integrating career and academic skills into the education process.”

The three-year grant provides funds for eight AGC chapters to establish Construction Career Academies in their communities. The chapters will also support their academies through matching funds and in-kind contributions. Schools are planned for Alaska, Florida, Texas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oregon and Wisconsin.

If an academy is not coming to your area, consider apprenticeship. More than 6,000 apprenticeship programs are registered with the DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship Training, Employer and Labor Services. The Department estimates that apprentices receive training worth $40,000 to $150,000, a $250 million a year investment by the construction industry. To find an apprenticeship programs near you check out Career Voyages.

Another program, the ACE Mentor Program encourages high school students to pursue architecture and construction careers by matching them with mentors in the field. Visits to local construction companies and a year-long, team-based design project that requires students to use workplace skills are part of the program.