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New Charlotte program offers free construction skills training for students and adults

Construction in Uptown

Building construction in Uptown Charlotte on Stonewall Street.
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Building construction in Uptown Charlotte on Stonewall Street.

Breyonna Bowman, a rising junior at Harding University High School, has dreams to become a construction project manager or construction lawyer.

With a new training center in west Charlotte, she can begin developing her skills.

The Goodwill Construction Skills Training Center is being launched through a partnership that includes Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Central Piedmont Community College to train and certify hundreds of high school students and adults in construction skills, free of charge.

“We have to think of a different pathway for students, and this is that opportunity,” said Matt Hayes, North Learning Superintendent of CMS schools.

The center is aimed to fill the rising need for skilled construction laborers and to improve Charlotte's low upward mobility, which ranks last among the 50 largest states, according to a Harvard/UC Berkeley study.

"It's all focused on increasing those opportunities for economic mobility for the individuals in our community," said Chris Jackson, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont.

Students can choose to specialize in construction, field supervision, concrete/masonry, apartment maintenance, advanced carpentry, computer aided drafting and design, HVAC and electrical.

Kristina Carlevatti, the auto mechanics instructor at the high school for the last six years, has always hoped for more girls in the classes. About 16 girls signed up this year after the school offered an introductory class as a gateway to more ad

The state’s construction industry is facing hiring challenges, especially around finding workers with needed technical skills, according to a 2016 study by the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

There will be a 20 percent increase in construction positions available in North Carolina by 2024, or almost new 37,000 jobs, the NC Department of Commerce predicts.

“If you have been walking around or driving around Charlotte lately, there’s obviously a construction boom,” said Kandi Deitemeyer, President of CPCC. “And so, we want to make sure that the citizens of Charlotte, whether they’re unemployed or underemployed, or our teens who want to come into a construction trade, that this is a valid pipeline.”

The training center is scheduled to open in January 2019 in a former warehouse for Goodwill’s retail operations located across from Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology on Allegheny Street.

The cost: $2.5 million for renovation and equipment. A $500,000 grant from Christ Episcopal Church launched the project., which now has commitments for $1.2 million. They are currently working to fully fund the renovation through Goodwill partners and community donations.

Several new hires for SteelFab Inc. were put through an orientation. Many of these new hires were students from Harding High School who came with a program that connects students with jobs at SteelFab. The new hires have jobs in painting, welding

“We invite our community to support this initiative to remain on target,” said Chris Jackson, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont.

The completed facility will include laboratory bays with industry-specific equipment and a “smart” classroom space for further hands-on instruction.

High school students will take these courses during the day as an extension of their academic curriculum.

Adult training will be completed through Goodwill and CPCC at night.

Some students will begin coursework this fall at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology to prepare for the trade school’s opening, Hayes said.

After completing training, students have the opportunity to enter the workforce, apply for an apprenticeship or transfer credit hours toward an associate’s degree at CPCC depending upon their chosen concentration.

According to a survey by the Association of General Contractors, future graduates have a positive outlook upon entering the construction industry. The survey reports that 60 percent of firms in the U.S. increased their base pay rates to attract and retain workers.

"You know what our problem is now? We don't have workers," said Trent Haston, President and CEO of Roby Family of Companies. "And you know what I've seen in the last 10 years? I've seen the wages of skilled trades people double."