One month after opening, the North Alabama Homebuilding Academy in Huntsville, Ala., already had more than 440 students on a waiting list for the free, hands-on training aimed at opening the door to a career in the building trades.
The school, funded through a partnership between the Huntsville Madison County Builders Association and the city of Huntsville, teaches students, 18 and over, a solid foundation of home construction skills; provides exposure to the different career opportunities within the home construction field gives each student a free set of starter tools; and offers career support, including resume writing and interviewing skills.
NAHB CEO Jerry Howard, who attended a Feb. 20 open house at the facility, said it was “a template for success that should be duplicated across the country.” NAHB 2020 Third Vice Chairman Alicia Huey, a custom home builder from Birmingham, was also in attendance at the event.
The current eight-week program meets two evenings per week. An accelerated four-week course, meeting four days per week, will be available later this year. New classes begin every eight to 10 weeks, with a goal to establish a pipeline of workers for the home building industry - an industry that lost more than 1.5 million jobs during the Great Recession and that has yet to fully recover.
In addition, an aging workforce means that even as new workers enter the trades, more are retiring.
The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows renewed hiring, but there are still 239,000 unfilled jobs in the sector, and workforce development continues to be a top priority for NAHB and its members.
The Alabama training center aims to tackle the solution to the local labor shortage. Tuition is free if the student is pursuing a new job or promotion in North Alabama’s home construction industry. Students earn OSHA-10 certification and a recruiter will track graduates for 18 months following their completion of the program.
“You can make a very good living in the trades. We’re trying to get that message out to people,” said Barry Oxley, executive director of the academy and executive officer of the Huntsville Madison County Builders Association.
The facility was inspired by the Colorado Homebuilding Academy in Denver, a collaboration of builders, universities, foundations, schools, and the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver. The Colorado facility has graduated nearly 500 students into the building trades since its opening in 2017, and another 100 students are currently enrolled in several construction training programs.
For more information about how NAHB is supporting the industry’s workforce development efforts, visit nahb.org.