The Colorado Homebuilding Academy’s roots go back to 2012 with the Colorado Construction Institute. “At first, we were working with off-track youth — now we’re calling it ‘opportunity youth’ — to find a pathway,” Director Michael Smith said of this early iteration of the Academy. Ideally, that pathway would lead students to the trades, and provide companies with a pipeline of workers who were able to start working right away, Smith said.
Even if students don’t ultimately enter the construction industry, a valuable byproduct of the Academy’s work, both to students and communities, is reducing dropout rates.
Some students have already decided, for one reason or another, that they’re not going to go to college, but high schools are “beating into [their] heads” that they have to, Smith said. Those students can end up wondering why they even bother going to high school. “It happens quite a lot,” Smith said, especially when a student is “more of a hands-on learner.”
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The Academy’s high school partners identify students who could benefit from the kind of intervention the Academy provides.
“We’ll work with the school, and create an innovative learning model where [the students] are at the school for two days a week, they’re here two days a week and ultimately in an apprenticeship for a day a week.”
Joining the program isn’t an easy out for students who just don’t want to be at school. “We will not be an opportunity for someone to drop out of school,” Smith said.
Students who enter the program and want to join the industry have to finish high school, and Smith says that very often, they do.
Prior to starting the program, candidates spend a day at the Academy once a week to see if they’re interested and show they will commit to it. Then they have to interview with a panel of industry representatives, Academy instructors and high school officials.
“It’s something that’s designed to be a little scary; something they have to earn,” Smith said.