‘We have misplaced a era of contractors’: Native college students study development abilities to fill labor scarcity

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May 23, 2021, 5:05 p.m.

Esther Bower

Posted: May 23, 2021 at 5:05 pm

Updated: May 23, 2021, 5:10 p.m.

SPOKANE, Washington. – Across the country there is an urge to bring more people back into the workforce. As more and more people move to Spokane, home development is accelerating, but there aren’t enough people in construction to keep up with demand. That’s why local construction companies work with students to prepare them for success.

“Labor prices are skyrocketing because of the shortage of skilled labor available to us,” said Corey Condron, a member of the Spokane Home Builder’s Association.

Over the years schools have supplanted college over trade / skill-based professions, resulting in a shortage of construction workers. Now there are more opportunities than ever for students to find good jobs that don’t require a four-year degree and keep the students out of debt.

A survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found that the main concern of home builders is work. 85% expect future cost and availability problems. 14 juniors and seniors at Mead High School are getting a head start in building careers, learning how to build sheds and bring work-ready skills into their future during a workforce development camp this weekend.

“Our goal today with these students is to show them a path into their future, whatever that may be,” said Doug Edmonson, CTE & Technology Director for the Mead School District.

“Our college path is beautiful, but we can start this path with a paycheck,” said Deacon Band, the Education Chair of the Spokane Home Builders Association (SBHA).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects construction jobs to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster growth than most occupations. The Spokane Home Builder’s Association started this camp with the help of local builders, Mead High School, and other community partners who donated the equipment and supplies. The students have completed two sheds that will remain in Mead and will serve the students in other ways. For those involved, this means a boost in confidence for the future.

“It makes me feel more secure knowing what I’ll do later in life,” said Michael Ripley, a junior at Mead High School.

“It’s pretty cool. I’ve never had the chance, so it’s definitely a learning experience, but it was fun,” said Gavin Burdick, a senior at Mead High School.

Both Gavin and Michael were offered jobs with a local construction company after training that weekend. Mead recently received a scholarship to advance its commercial skills development programs and provide students with more growth opportunities. The SBHA is working to bring this workforce training program to other schools and districts in the future.