Fort Bragg soldiers to benefit from new trades program
By AMANDA DOLASINSKI | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: March 17, 2018
Soldiers at Fort Bragg who are leaving service are eligible for a new program that will train them for construction jobs – an industry that has been dealing with a shortage of workers.
Through a gift from the Home Depot Foundation, Home Builders Institute has launched a program at Fort Bragg to train soldiers transitioning out of service for jobs in the construction trade. The Home Depot Foundation's $50 million pledge aims to train 20,000 tradesmen by 2028.
"This is a great way for them to have careers," said Heather Prill, senior manager of national partnerships for The Home Depot Foundation. "They've done so much for our country. For us to be able to do this one thing to give back is the right thing to do."
The Home Depot Foundation has focused on veteran housing issues since 2011. It began researching ways it could expand those initiatives and found the Home Builders Institute – a 50-year-old educational arm for the industry.
The Home Builders Institute trains several under-served populations, including veterans, transitioning military, at-risk youth and adults released from prison.
Both organizations recognized a growing need for skilled laborers.
There are about 158,000 skilled labor job openings across the country, according to national statistics. About 45 percent of businesses struggle to find qualified candidates for jobs.
The average age of a plumber is 56, signaling that tradesmen are retiring, but no one is in the pipeline to replace them, Prill said.
The Home Builders Institute has already launched a trades program at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The program averages about 120 graduates a year.
Fort Bragg's program started in January – and the Home Depot Foundation's pledge guarantees it will remain for at least two years.
The organizations said these types of jobs appeal to soldiers because they can work with their hands and in teams. They are also easy for people to launch their own businesses.
Program participants will complete 12 weeks of training and earn certification recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. The program is free for transitioning service members.
"Now we're training a pipeline of students," said John Courson, president and CEO of the Home Builders Institution. "The students that finish our training on the military side, we're placing 90 percent in jobs when they graduate from the service."
The program at Fort Bragg started with carpentry, but other trades will be added as instructors join, Courson said. Those trades could include masonry, plumbing, electric and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Courson said soldiers are eligible to participate in the program without using GI benefits, so they can earn certification and continue their education with other benefits later.
Soldiers who complete the program can work through the Home Builders Institution for job placement in North Carolina or any of the other 43 states in its network, Courson said. Graduates have reported jobs paying between $30,000 and $55,000, he said.
"We want to make sure when they train with us, they're job ready," he said.
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