New Construction Training Program Launched to Meet Growing Need

The construction industry needs 30,000 new employees in the next seven years.

By Danika Worthington for The Denver Post | Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne joined the Associated General Contractors of Colorado and other politicians and construction groups Wednesday to launch a program to help fill some of the 30,000 construction jobs that will be needed in the next seven years.

Construction Careers Now will train people just starting out in their careers and older adults changing industries, educating participants on various construction-career paths, basic math, safety and blueprint reading, along with other basics at the Emily Griffith Technical College in Denver.

“Our goal in continuing to attract top companies to the state of Colorado has to be recognized in that we could potentially have a workforce shortage,” Lynne said. “And programs like this are in fact recognizing the importance of developing a great workforce.”

The month-long night program is free for participants, who are not required to have experience or a GED. AGC president Michael Gifford said his organization as well as the Colorado Contractors Association and Hispanic Contractors of Colorado are starting the program together, covering the $500-per-student cost.

The program also includes a hiring fair with construction companies that need workers. Enrollment begins Aug. 3, and the program starts Sept. 12. Participants can sign up on BuildColorado.com.

The contractor groups and Emily Griffith received a $1.1 million grant from the state to fund outreach and recruitment. The grant is part of the 2015 state Work Act, which set aside $10 million over three years for various industry programs partnered with a two-year or technical college or apprenticeship program.

“With the rising cost of college, we’ve got to start making our careers and training more affordable for our youth and for those who may have been laid off in some other industry that need a new skill to feed their families,” said Rep. Angela Williams, who co-sponsored the bill.

In the past year, Colorado construction employment has grown by 10,500 employees, or 7.1 percent, according to AGC. But that’s not enough to keep up with the new construction demanded as Colorado population booms to8.7 million in 2050 from 5.4 million last year.

The problem has been more stubborn in part, Gifford said, because K-12 education has phased out shop classes over the past 30 years. Now fewer high school students consider construction as a career or learn even basic skills.

One of the companies picking up the flurry of construction projects is Saunders Construction. Brad Marsh, vice president of human resources for Saunders, said that the company has been fortunate to avoid the shortage problems.

The large commercial construction company currently has 515 employees, half of whom work on the job site. Marsh said new hires must have experience and are typically referred by current employees or are found through the union.

Construction workers work on a mixed use project in downtown Denver. A new program will train workers for the many needed construction jobs available.

Marsh said the company also has a high retention rate, largely due to additional training offered to employees, a friendly and safe culture, and desirable benefits. He said all these factors mean they are rarely posting job openings online.

“We don’t feel the shortage, but we feel busy,” Marsh said, adding that he expects the construction business to remain steady for at least the next five years.

Marsh said Saunders has been talking with AGC about creating a curriculum partnership with Construction Careers Now, offering either time or content from their training experts.

This is not the first initiative trying to get more people involved in the construction industry. AGC and CCA started the construction job portal BuildColorado.com in 2014.

New York-based Markle Foundation and LinkedIn announced Skillful in Colorado and in Phoenix earlier this year. The program is designed to develop workers for so-called middle-skill jobs, which require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree.

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