As the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) notes continued labor shortages throughout the residential construction and remodeling industries, training and certification programs have surfaced in high schools and community colleges nationwide, helping to address the issue. In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam launched the Build Virginia initiative, geared toward helping the state’s job seekers to train for and obtain employment in skilled trades. Meanwhile, the Home Builders Institute (HBI) and The Home Depot Foundation also teamed up within the state to announce the expansion of a Military and Veterans Program, offering trades-based training to transitioning military members, their spouses and veterans. It’s programs of this sort that NAHB Remodelers Chairperson Tim Ellis hopes will not only work to fill labor gaps, but to overcome public perceptions about trades-based careers and positions.

“NAHB is attempting to change the stigma of working in the trades by increasing awareness to teens and parents, and providing them with education and the skills they need to succeed,” Ellis said.

Concerning the severity of shortages, a Remodeling Market Index issued by NAHB last winter showed 85% of remodelers noting shortages of workers available to perform finished or rough carpentry—48% of which classified the shortage of finished carpenters as serious. In a survey of single-family home builders, 90% reported a shortage of rough carpenters (many of which install doors and windows, or hold up door and window contractors awaiting the next phases of construction). NAHB Economist Paul Emrath said it’s “the first time any labor or subcontractor shortage has reached 90% in the history of NAHB’s survey on the topic.”

In all, NAHB estimates there were 360,000 job openings in the construction sector in March, the highest amount since the 2008 recession.

“The overall trend for open construction jobs has been increasing since the end of the Great Recession,” said Dr. Robert Dietz chief economist for NAHB. “This matches survey data revealing that access to labor remains a top business challenge for builders. However, more modest growth rates for housing construction for 2019 and 2020 are likely to place downward pressure on construction job openings in future data releases.”

In Virginia, throughout the month of May, the governor’s chief workforce development advisor, Megan Healy, and a Build Virginia advisory committee board have been traveling the state to hold regional meetings, seeking input from stakeholders. Later this week, officials from the initiative will meet at a local community college to discuss the skilled trades workforce.

“Build Virginia is about training our citizens for promising careers in in-demand industries, so that every person has the opportunity to build a healthy, productive life no matter who you are or where you are from,” said Northam. “To stay competitive in the 21st century economy, we must build a highly skilled workforce with the training that employers require. Build Virginia will serve as an essential resource, helping to bridge these gaps so that our workers can get the skills they need to advance their careers, and businesses can find employees with the right skills.”

In Norfolk, Va., through the expansion of HBI and Home Depot’s Military and Veterans Program, military members, their spouses and veterans can now participate in a free, 12-week construction industry training, certification and job placement program. According to HBI, the program was established to train new tradespeople to help address ongoing shortages.

The effort marks the seventh installation to join the collaboration between HBI and The Home Depot Foundation. According to a press release issued by The Home Depot Foundation, the organization plans to establish additional training sites at other military bases.

 “Last year, The Home Depot Foundation made a commitment to work alongside HBI and train 20,000 skilled workers to help combat a major issue within the trades industry,” said executive director for The Home Depot Foundation Shannon Gerber.

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