By Claire Aiello, Vice President, Marketing & Communications
For every person entering the trades, four are retiring. That statistic is from the National Association of Home Builders, and it really hammers the problem home. You’ve likely felt it if you’ve needed a plumber or electrician, and you’ve definitely noticed it if you’re building. We need more people to know about opportunities in homebuilding and consider this path.
The Huntsville/Madison County Builders Association (HMCBA) has created a workable solution, and class is now officially in session at the North Alabama Homebuilding Academy (NAHA). The first eight-week bootcamp training program began on January 16, and there are about 20 students attending class two evenings per week for eight weeks. It’s a free program, and there are a few qualifications:
■ Students must have a desire to enter the homebuilding industry after completion
■ Be 18 years of age or older (or a 17-year-old high school senior)
■ Be willing to submit and pass a drug screening prior to acceptance
■ Be legally allowed to work in the U.S.
The HMCBA hosted a ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of the academy. It is located near the intersection of Bob Wallace Avenue and Triana Boulevard, and is modeled after a similar academy in Denver, Colorado. The course is designed to give people basic construction skills and help them find employment right away – because companies need these workers.
“You can make a very good living in the trades – we’re trying to get that message out to people. How many people do you know who can get a plumber to show up at their house for free?” said Barry Oxley, executive director of HMCBA and NAHA. “It’s also a great way to start your own business. Come in, learn the skills, get good at it, and you can start your own company one day.”
The target audience is students about to graduate from high school, but also low-income, underemployed people working hourly jobs. Transitioning military are also good candidates, along with people interested in changing careers, as well as nonviolent offenders. There are plans to hire a recruiter in the near future to promote the academy. So far, there are enough candidates to fill the first three sessions, and they’ve heard about it through word of mouth, Oxley said.
Dr. Tommy Davis has been hired as the academy’s administrator. His background includes 30 years in public education with Limestone County Schools and Decatur City Schools, including career tech. He has also been involved in talent development with the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce. Davis will oversee the academy’s operation and help the students with math tutoring and resumé building.
Industry-qualified instructors will teach classes in carpentry, electrical, plumbing, safety, masonry, flooring, and more. There is an initial orientation session followed by an on-site drug screening, but after students qualify, most of the instruction is hands-on, Davis said.
“They are going to learn practical skills. The bottom line is, we want to keep them interested and keep them hands-on, because the ones who we think are going to come to this program don’t necessarily want to spend three years in a classroom,” said Davis. “They want to learn a skill and get out and apply what they know.”
Course components include job site safety, construction industry knowledge, construction math, hand and power tools, blueprint reading, building projects, career preparation, and trade specific training. Students will also earn OSHA 10 certification upon completion of the eight-week program. The best part – the program includes a career fair.
“We bring in contractors and builders to interview these students, so we try to get them employed right away,” added Davis.
Over the summer, NAHA plans to offer the training class in a compressed four-week schedule. Students would come four days a week and finish the same curriculum.
Interested in applying for the North Alabama Homebuilding Academy? Please visit gobuildyourfuture.com or call 256-536-2602.
This article appears in the February 2020 issue of Initiatives magazine, a publication of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.