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Home builders do good, tackle labor issues at same time

Charlotte-based Rebuilding Opportunities in Construction (ROC) has partnered with the Lake Norman Home Builders Association, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools and Goodwill to bring construction technology training to at-risk high school students.

ROC students start the program in their junior year and receive skills training in advanced carpentry, electrical and HVAC, as well as other construction-related fields.

The students receive dual high school and college credits and can finish their associate degree at CPCC, free of charge.

Ash: Parents want success for kids

“For the past 30 years, high school districts have not operated any meaningful construction career and technical apprenticeship programs,” said Darren Ash, executive director of The ROC, which partners with Goodwill.

The programs ultimately helps rebuild the local building industry which was devastated by the 2008 recession. Adding to the challenge is the fact that fewer high schools operate robust career and technical educational programs, especially high-poverty schools where students could most benefit, and the fact that the aging construction workforce continues to retire.

ROC takes on the notion that every student should be on a 4-year university track, regardless of that student’s learning ability or interest.

Meanwhile, a Harvard University/UC Berkeley study ranked Charlotte 50th out of 50 in upward mobility among the largest U.S. cities.

The Lake Norman Home Builders is donating $5,000 to ROC. The funds were raised by events sponsored by the Professional Women in Building of the Lake Norman Association to help transport young workers.

The goal of ROC is to provide a career path for underserved teens through a youth apprenticeship in the construction industry where skilled labor is in high demand.

“Parents want success for their kids and are starting to see the attractive wages paid in career fields such as construction management,” Ash said.

Charlotte faces a triple challenge—and opportunity.

In addition to the upward mobility problem—which manifests itself among teens and younger adults—there are thousands of well-paying construction jobs and not enough qualified people to fill them.

A recent survey by the Department of Commerce found that a majority of construction companies in NC had hiring difficulties – especially prevalent in the carpentry (60 percent) and electrical (53 percent) industries.

With 33,000 new NC construction related trade job openings projected by 2024 (11,000 alone in Mecklenburg County), current training pipelines will be inadequate to meet this demand.


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