College courses address home building sector labor shortage

With so many homes left with serious damage as a result of Harvey, there is growing concern over a shortage of skilled labor and subcontractors to help Houston-area rebuilding efforts.

Even before the devastating storm, construction firms were experiencing a dip in the workforce, but Lone Star College - North Harris is trying to fix that. The National Association of Home Builders reported that the shortages have become more widespread, increasing from 21 percent in 2012 to 56 percent in 2016, the worst rate since 2000.

U.S. Army veteran Dakota Sember is enrolled in the electrical technology program at the LSC - North Harris campus.

"It was six years active duty, military police officer, so actually my background is not in anything electrical whatsoever," says Sember.

Even before Harvey caused more than 100,000 Houston-area homes to flood, Sember knew he wanted to pursue a trade.

"It's the way the world is going now," adds Sember. "A lot of people don't like to work. get their hands dirty or anything like that it seems, and there's a lot of money in it, so hey, let's follow that!"

But will enough skilled workers be available to help the Houston area rebuild quickly? 

"I mean, they're looking for skilled apprenticemen, tradesmen and there aren't a lot out there right now," explains instructor Michael DiBlasio.

"From the stats we have, 90 percent of executives want a more skilled workforce," says LSC - North Harris president Dr. Gerald Napoles. That campus has a brand new building for teaching construction-related trades like H-VAC, pipefitting and automotive.

Many students who complete the programs are finding employment immediately. That is good news for homeowners concerned about dealing with unlicensed workers.

"We also want to make sure people are certified so when you're building, it's safe and it lasts as good as it was before Hurricane Harvey," adds Dr. Napoles.

"It's like if I'd have done this a year ago, I'd be set right now, I'd be working overtime like crazy right now," adds Sember.

There are many forms of financial aid available. For more information on the LSC - North Harris programs, visit http://www.lonestar.edu/construction-trades.

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