Area builders and contractors who attended the Dallas Builders’ Show last week didn’t just get the lowdown on the latest in engineered wood or backsplashes – they also had the opportunity to meet the students that will be their future workforce.
The Dallas Builders Association has made good on its desire to help local high school programs by providing networking and internship opportunities to students learning construction trades.
Last spring, the group hosted a group of students from Skyline High School’s construction program at one of Classic Urban Homes job sites.
Last Thursday, the DBA hosted more than 100 students from several area high schools at its annual trade show event in Plano. Students from Arlington, Dallas, Garland, and Grand Prairie mingled with builders and vendors, snagging business cards and making connections.
Jason and Cesar attend North Garland High. They said their studies so far this year have them learning how to wire a house for electricity.
“We’re trying to get more accurate,” Jason said. “If you’re not accurate, you can cause a fire.”
“If a hot wire is touching insulation or a screw, it can melt and cause a fire,” Cesar added.
Both are in their first year of North Garland’s construction program, and thought the opportunity to attend the show gave them valuable time to get more information about job prospects and more.
Grand Prairie High School students Demarcus, Wilson, Juan, and Justin came hoping to snag internship opportunities. They’ve been learning to frame houses.
“We’ve been working on framing and plumbing,” Wilson said.
“And we’re getting into electrical now,” Demarcus added.
The four were excited about the things they get to work on right now. “We’re going to frame a house ourselves soon,” Wilson said.
Are they getting comfortable with the skills they’ve learned so far? “For the most part,” said Justin. “But we always know we can get better.”
“We get to work on these projects, and we can compete with them,” Wilson said, grinning. “We’re a team, and our mock up is going to go to state. I know it.”
The four are hoping to find part-time jobs in the construction industry soon, as well as internships.
For Skyline High School instructor John Jackson, watching his students learn and hone a craft that can provide them a lifetime of work is rewarding. And bringing his students to the show was both an opportunity to let them network, but also somewhat of a reward for hard work this semester.
“They get to talk to people in the industry, but they also get to walk around with tote bags and pick up all kinds of swag, “ he said, laughing.
But Jackson, who teaches HVAC, said Skyline’s program is teaching students the basics of construction work.
“Our students learn technical skills for construction, then we let them decide which trade or trades they are interested in,” he explained. “Even if we don’t teach it, we help them find the opportunities to learn that trade.”
“Our goal is to expose them to as many trades in the field as possible,” he added.
This increased focus on offering training in construction trades can’t come at a better time. Numbers for housing starts and permits from the U.S. Census Bureau show that recent hurricanes have exacerbated a skilled worker shortage already being felt by the construction industry.
“Residential construction employment, the primary category of labor that build new homes, declined by 3,900, while specialty trade contractors (the plumbers, electricians and other specialized labor that is often involved in renovation and rehabilitation projects) increased by almost 9,000,” First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming told Mortgage Professional America.
“The decline in residential construction jobs and increase in specialty trade contractors highlights the strong demand, particularly in Texas, for construction workers to renovate and rehabilitate hurricane impacted houses. The challenge of finding skilled labor to build new homes is now being exacerbated by the demand for that same skilled labor to renovate damaged homes.”
The Dallas-Fort Worth area is feeling those challenges as well, making the vocational programs at area schools that much more valuable, said DBA president Michael Turner of Classic Urban Homes.
“There is no denying that the labor shortage is adding significant costs and delays to every new home in our region,” said Turner, who graduated from a vocational program with Arlington ISD. “These young people present an opportunity for our industry, but more importantly, our industry is an opportunity for them to have a viable career and provide for their families.”