The skilled-labor shortage continues to be a serious problem for the construction industry, but the owner of one Nevada-based glass company is responding to the challenge by launching an online vocational school to train young workers in the trades.
The Ground Up Trade School is the vision of Joshua Munns, the owner and president of nvision Glass in Reno, Nev. The school, which is expected to launch in the third quarter of 2018, will feature online instruction and placement in an apprenticeship. That mix of self-directed and hands-on education will allow those taking the course to earn income as they learn.
Munns, whose nvision Glass partners include Western Window Systems, said in a post on the company’s website that Ground Up’s introductory portion will consist of 72.5 hours of instructions. That will include 12 hours of basic safety, 10 hours of construction math, 10 hours of construction drawing, 10 hours of hand tools and 10 hours of power tools.
“Once people have taken the introductory course and passed the exam, they choose a career path, like, say, finish carpentry,” Munns told Western Window Systems. “We’re going to place them with people who are looking to hire new talent. They will be in an apprenticeship program in a merit-shop world, not in a union world. As a partner with Ground Up, these contracting and subcontracting companies will hire the recruit and give that person on-the-job training. While they’re earning income, they’re going to be able to continue their education and become a journeyman after so many hours of work. Once they become a journeyman, they’re on their way.”
Munns said workers in the skilled trades can earn an annual salary of $55,000 or more after four years in the field. By comparison, the average college graduate with a four-year degree can only expect to earn about $31,000 per year after four years at work.
Ground Up could help negative perception of the trades as a viable career option for young people. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders, just 3 percent of young adults aged 18 to 25 view “construction trades” as a field they’d like to enter.
There are also labor shortages to contend with, now and in the future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 158,000 unfilled construction jobs in the U.S., a number that is expected to increase significantly over the next decade thanks to retirements. The Department of Labor says the ratio of construction job openings to hirings is at its highest level since 2007.
“We have a broken system, and it starts with the narrative that we as a society have been putting out so long,” said Munns. “For so long, the conversation around the dinner table has been, ‘You’re going to go to high school, then you’re going to go college, then you’re going to get a degree and get a job in that field. And if you don’t do that, you’re not going to be a successful person and you’re going to be looked down upon.”
Munns said tuition rates for Ground Up have not been determined, but he wants to keep it affordable so that students don’t slide deep into debt like they do at four-year colleges.
Training programs for young workers are growing in popularity. Last week, the Home Depot Foundation announced a $50 million commitment to train 20,000 workers in the trades during the next ten years.
In 2017, the Home Depot Foundation launched a pilot trades training program for military members leaving active duty in partnership with the nonprofit Home Builders Institute (HBI) at Ft. Stewart and Ft. Bragg. The first set of students will graduate this month. The 12-week pre-apprenticeship certification program, which is provided at no cost to students, uses an industry-based curriculum recognized by the Department of Labor that integrates work-based learning with technical and academic skills. The program, which has a job placement rate of more than 90 percent, will now roll out on additional bases across the United States.
“We want to bring shop class back, from coast-to-coast,” said Shannon Gerber, executive director of the Home Depot Foundation. “We’re thrilled to train 20,000 next-generation plumbers, electricians, carpenters and beyond. It’s a true honor to welcome our first classes of separating soldiers as they transition to civilian life and into successful careers in the trades.”