The Colorado Homebuilding Academy’s Michael Smith recently started a new position as the founder and director of the TEACH Construction Initiative. The initiative will take the Academy’s mission—to support the future of the construction industry with training programs and materials—and expand it beyond Colorado and beyond home building.
“The whole goal of the TEACH Construction Initiative is how do we create a system to share best practices on program models or program implementation, and share practices on funding models that can be successful,” Smith told Colorado Builder. “It’s really what can you do, and then it’s how can you do it.”
Smith was driven to launch the TEACH Construction Initiative as the Academy grew and others in the industry took notice.
“The market is so ready for a solution to the constant talk about a problem,” he said.
He will continue to support the Academy during the transition is it searches for a new director. Cheryl Schuette is serving as the acting director.
The initiative will provide defined lesson plans and training curriculum to schools, organizations or companies that want to implement workforce development programs for the construction industry. Training won’t focus solely on residential building. Instead the goal will be to develop a larger base of skilled construction workers that different sectors can compete for.
“This shouldn’t be about home building,” Smith said. “If I train people in home building, the commercial guys are going to try to steal them. … How about we work together to create a bigger pool [of skilled workers], and then they fight for them?”
The first company to adopt the TEACH initiative’s materials is Houston-based David Weekley Homes and its training partner, Lone Star Community College. Houston Community College and Perry Homes have also expressed interest, Smith said.
Some of the initiative’s funding will come from suppliers and manufacturers, Smith said. Benjamin Moore is an early stage investor, in partnership with the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, which is providing content specific to painting trades.
“We have to get rid of our competitive fences at least for workforce development,” Smith said.
Software and technology
The initiative is also developing software tools to help with placement and to help with tracking progress, Smith said. One of those tools is something Smith calls “LinkedIn meets Match.com in a private network.”
Developed in partnership with CDOT, users will create skills-based profiles that can be endorsed by employers or training programs. Employers can search for specific skills and find workers based on the job they need to get done.
What the software won’t show is users’ gender or race. Everyone has hiring biases, he acknowledged, but he wants firms to stop hiring people who look like them and start hiring people who work like them.
“Start hiring by skills. Don’t worry about the rest,” Smith said.
The initiative is also developing a software program modeled after apprentice programs. The software will draw defined career pathways for trainees that show them what is expected of them and what they can expect in compensation, and lists the skills they need to acquire to meet those benchmarks.
The millennial and younger generations of workers want to know their pathway, Smith said. “We’ve empowered them as a society to ask” for what they want, he noted, but the industry doesn’t have a defined way to prepare them for that progress.
Smith hopes to deploy both the Construction Skills Match tool and the career pathway tool by Christmas.