By Claire Aiello, Vice President, Marketing & Communications
Students at the North Alabama Homebuilding Academy (NAHA) have followed different paths, but they’re all learning important skills for jobs that are in demand in our area.
The academy opened in January, and 13 students enrolled in the first session, taking classes two evenings per week. We visited in February to see how the students were progressing and talk with them about their journeys.
Nathan is 19 and graduated from Sparkman High School. He is currently working in a grocery store and tried college for while, but said he didn’t care for it. Over the years, his father taught him how to build birdhouses, fix fences, and most recently, they worked together to gut and restore a house the family owned in Kentucky. Nathan said he enjoyed the work and enjoyed learning how to use the various tools. “My father asked me if I wanted to enroll in this class. I said absolutely, yes.”
Vincent is 18, and was homeschooled. He learned about NAHA through an article on AL.com.
“I’ve had experience with construction, mainly working with my family, farming, things like that. This interests me because I’m not looking for a job in an office, in a closed workspace. I’d rather work outside or with material,” Vincent said. He says he is interested in electrical/HVAC work, because he knows there is a high demand for this specialty.
Many students in the first class were younger, but Derrick is a retired Army veteran with a background in logistics and healthcare. He is originally from Pennsylvania but moved to Huntsville in 2002 to work on Redstone Arsenal. He is now training for a new career at age 60. “I’ve always had an interest in building. I’ve never really built anything, but I’ve watched the various TV programs, and this class has allowed me to have the practical understanding of how building takes place.”
Derrick acknowledges he is the oldest in the group but enjoys it. “Many of these guys are all born after 2000, but that’s okay. It’s a good thing. It keeps you young! I feel great – I’m comfortable in the class, and I’ve learned a great deal. The equipment has changed since I took industrial arts in high school, and the refresher on fractions has been great.”
On the evening we visited, Dr. Tommy Davis, NAHA administrator, and Justin Click, lead instructor, helped students brush up on adding/using fractions, because they need to be able to do that quickly when measuring or cutting. They also demonstrated proper safety techniques when using a miter saw. Students practiced measuring, cutting different angles on wood, and using a chalk line.
The classes are free, and word is getting out. Since online applications went active, more than 460 people have applied. Nearly 25 percent are female.
“This is a male-dominated industry, but women, I’ve seen how they can handle their own,” said Derrick. “I know some that could work rings around men, me included. It would be awesome to get women engaged in plumbing, electrical, carpentry, masonry. That would be a plus.”
Another student, Thomas, is 18. He says he’s excited about his future and is considering becoming an electrician.
“You can have fun working in this field, make lots of money because it’s very high demand, so that means higher pay, and you don’t have to go to college for four years and go into horrible debt just to get a job,” he said. “You might go to college and get a fouryear degree, then hear that no one will hire you because you don’t have any experience yet.”
“Plus, this class is free – that’s one of the biggest pluses. You don’t have to pay for it,” Thomas added.
The inaugural class graduated in mid-March. If you are interested in applying for a future session, visit gobuildyourfuture.com.
This article appears in the April 2020 issue of Initiatives magazine, a publication of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.