New Tucson trade school works to fill need for construction workers across southern Arizona

New trade school working to fill construction need
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 7:44 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The American economy is trying to recover from the pandemic, but some jobs, such as construction and trade work, aren’t quite being filled.

As a generation of laborers is preparing for retirement, Idea’l Trade Institute in Tucson is working to train and teach the next generation of construction workers to fill the need in southern Arizona.

Idea’l Trade Institute founder Clayton Abernathy said they’ve known a shortage in laborers was in the near future for years. He said their new trade school is a solution to the growing problem nationwide.

What we’ve done is figure out how to solve that need. We’ve tried to do it for the last 15 years. We were going into high schools and talking about this. People didn’t believe us that it was coming,” Abernathy said. “The U.S. Census Bureau said this was happening. We were adding so many people to college and more were graduating and we were downing on the construction industry for 20 to 30 years and that’s sad.”

According the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million construction workers are needed right now around the country. That need is expected to grow seven percent from now until the year 2030. That means there’s expected to be more than 167,000 openings for trade workers each year over the next decade.

Abernathy said the idea at Idea’l is simple. Their trade school works to give students hands-on skills and training and keep them working locally after graduation.

Students build more than two dozen tiny homes from the ground up over a six month period in order to create muscle memory and learn skills needed to be successful in the industry.

“With the tiny houses and the boom that’s going on there, it enabled us to open a very expensive school for not as much money,” Abernathy said. “We changed the program to where they build 25 homes ground up, and we have all walks of life in there. We have engineers, real estate agents, kids right out of high school, returned missionaries from their church, all trying to learn the same thing.”

Students learn how to frame homes, install plumbing, electric, HVAC systems, roofing, siding and then the company sells the finished product. The money brought in from the sale goes right back into the program, buying tools and materials for the next class.

Abernathy said the cost to students is lower than a college certificate program and they walk away with a certificate and job after six months.

“For $500 they come in, as long as they finish the program, we get rid of the $13,000 that is owed and they end up with $2,200 worth of Milwaukee tools,” Abernathy said. “So they can go into the workforce and make a difference.”

The program is six months long. The next semester starts July 11. The school will be accepting 48 students.

If you’re interested in applying you can go to their website.

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