On July 13, the Madison Area Builders Association (MABA) participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new facility to train the next generation of construction industry professionals. NAHB CEO Jerry Howard, Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (BGCDC) First Chair Dr. Leslie Petty and other community leaders took part in the event.
Through a partnership with BGCDC, the new McKenzie Regional Workforce Center will serve as a skilled trades learning hub for local students. MABA member John McKenzie spearheaded the development of the center. He purchased and donated the building, which will also serve as the future home of MABA's offices.
"These are great jobs and they're satisfying jobs but they're not being advocated for — they're not being taught in schools," said McKenzie during the ceremony. "The industry is primarily a bunch of old white men and they're aging out…we need more women in the workforce, we need more people of color in the workforce."
Like many areas across the country, Wisconsin is facing a critical shortage of skilled construction workers, says Chad Lawler, executive director of MABA. Carpentry, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, framing crews and welding classes will be offered at the new training center. The facility will reach up to 3,000 students who currently participate with BGCDC through after-school and weekend programs.
Elementary school students will have the opportunity to take introductory classes and middle schoolers will learn about the trades at an intermediate level. Students ages 16 and older will be invited to participate in hands-on experiences with comprehensive instruction.
"The ultimate goal is not just to introduce the students into the trades but to also teach them leadership and entrepreneur skills, as well as how to run a business," said Lawler.
The workforce center is expected to welcome students in the fall of 2022.