Last week I had the opportunity to be a part of a panel discussing the Construction Academy in our area and the opportunities for our young people in the trades. The panel discussion was organized and facilitated by Tom Martin and CESA 3. It also included Jill Underly superintendent at Pecatonica, Duane Elfering UW-Platteville and Barneveld, Dan Carey from Carey’s Seamless Gutters & Overhead Doors, and myself. Duane and Tom started the academy 2 years ago and the purpose of the panel discussion was to build support and interest in the program.
The Construction Academy is 26 weeklong program that is available to all high school students in our area. They meet once a week for 3 hours a session. The purpose of the academy is to provide exposure to opportunities for careers in the trades. It gives the students some basic training in all areas of construction and provides an opportunity for them to learn which trades they find interesting. Duane is the instructor for the course but also partners with local contractors to train the students.
We were lucky enough to take part in this program during its first year, the 2019-20 school year. It was a great experience. We hosted the academy at our facility for 2 sessions. In the first one, we gave them some basic knowledge about 3 different roof systems. The second session consisted of a discussion on siding and we trained on installing LP Smartside. We were able to provide some instruction and more importantly, tried to show our passion for our trade. We were thankful to be able to get in front of these students and explain to them the incredible opportunities that exist in the trades.
Like any business, we are only successful because of our people. They are the most important asset. The demand for the trades is not going to diminish. Unfortunately, both locally and nationally the number of people going into the trades is decreasing. This is obviously concerning to us but should also be concerning to everyone. Anyone that owns property must rely on the trades at some point. We all will someday need a new roof, our plumbing fixed, or our garage door serviced. The shortage of skilled labor creates a threat to consumers’ pocketbooks and a huge opportunity for students going into this field. Pay and benefits for skilled labor continue to rise and people are starting to realize and appreciate how important this work is.