Construction Career Program Growing in Denver

This month, the Denver City Council approved the establishment of a new fund for their Construction Careers Program, which supports programs that develop the construction talent pipeline in Denver.

“There’s sometimes a gap between in-class training and on the job training. And this helps close that gap,” said Marcus Johnson, a project manager for Denver’s Workforce Development Program. He also oversees the career program.

According to a June report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 88% of contractors reported moderate-to-high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers. Nearly half of those reported having a “high level of difficulty.”

In Denver, experts said the construction labor shortage is present, but hope the expansion of the program makes a difference.

Right now in Denver, just four schools utilize the program.

“Specifically, what we are aiming to do is introduce area youth to careers in construction specifically in the skill trades,” Johnson said.

The courses offered through the program give basic fundamental skills around using certain tools, materials and construction projects.

When a student goes through the program, they’re able to receive nationally recognized certifications for skill trades. Johnson also said it gives students a leg up to getting an internship with a construction company for example, even before graduation.

“And more importantly, a working relationship with an employer,” he said.

With the approval of funding for the program, the money would be collected through permitting fees (with an opt-out option).

Operating costs for a course of this nature costs around $30,000, according to Johnson.

He hopes that if contributions come from at least 60% of residential and commercial permits, $375,000 would be put into the fund. If 100% were to contribute, he estimates up to $625,000 could be collected.

“Its really gonna provide them with a guided option,” Johnson said.

Johnson hopes for the fund to begin on Feb. 2, 2022, with the actual distribution of funds to occur in the fall of 2022 when the new school year begins.

Initially, the fund looks to stabilize the program currently in use, then expand, depending on the funds collected.

Johnson adds that the course, because it’s for college credit, is offered to any students enrolled in Denver Public Schools, and they can be transported to a school that offers the course.

If you step inside Legacy Options High School in Denver, the volume gets louder as you get closer to the ‘Fundamentals of Construction.’

On Tuesday, students could be seen assembling a large shed for a client. One student was constructing the ceiling fan, while others were putting together the siding for the building.

The class is able to be accessed through the Construction Careers Program, and is a college credit class through Emily Griffith Technical College.

The school first started offering the course this past school year.

“This is valuable to them – the more they learn here, the more they can apply it out there in the workforce. And this will give them an opportunity to deal with tools, materials, and get used to using them,” said Weston Harmon, the instructor of the course. “That way they can operate the drills, the impacts, the saws …it gives them an opportunity to measure and cut.”

Students also work with a wide array of measurement tools, in order to provide a foundational education in construction.

“I do think they need more all over the world – the Denver area for sure,” Harmon said, referring to the need of the program. “You can make some good money as you work up the ladder.”

George Washington High School is another Denver-area school that has access to the program, and implemented it through a math course called “Geometry in Construction.”

They too started the course this past school year.

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