Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association is developing several initiatives to create a workforce pipeline for students to enter the construction industry.
The moves come at a time when the construction labor force is strained in the local markets, said Cameron Moore, executive officer of the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association (WCFHBA).
That industry has suffered as the demand for construction has been increasing. At the local level, there is a "huge demand for homebuilding" within the area, Moore said.
"I don't have enough skilled labor in labor, in general, to build those homes ... to meet the market demand," he said. "That is our biggest issue. We see the demand rising within our area for homes and new construction, but as an industry, we are still facing a huge gap as far as our workforce."
To help bridge the gap, there are several new initiatives in the works, he said.
WCFHBA was one of 42 local homebuilder associations across the country that was awarded a Skilled Labor Fund grant through the National Housing Endowment, the philanthropic arm of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Moore said.
Through the fund, the WCFHBA received $15,000 for the 2019-20 funding cycle and aims to use the money toward building a "construction education lab mobile experience center," Moore said.
The trailer would be outfitted to serve as a mobile marketing educational tool and as a classroom to host sessions about the new construction and the remodeling industries, Moore said.
The mobile education center concept is to take "the WCFHBA/CFCC [Cape Fear Community College] education and mission, 'on-the-road,' to many locations or venues, with the vision of reaching and educating new audiences, including but not limited to, local businesses, schools, government officials, facility planners, students, parents, teachers, as well as designers, builders, remodelers and contractors in the building and construction industry," Moore said in an email.
The WCFHBA is working on getting additional funds for the project, he said.
The group also has worked the past couple of months on another initiative in partnership with CFCC.
They worked with the NAHB's student chapters arm to bring the first-ever affiliated chapter to CFCC.
"The chapter held its first meeting this week and is already working on expanding its influence and membership at CFCC and within the association," Moore said.
And last week, WCFHBA's board approved five mini-grants of up to $500 each for local high schools to apply for, Moore said.
The grants, through the Paul Gregory Foundation, will provide direct assistance to construction-related vocational programs in New Hannover and Pender counties, according to the grant application website
The WCFHBA has also had a partnership with the college for CFCC’s Construction Institutes
, a two-week program last year that was aimed to address the local construction labor shortage. The Paul Gregory Foundation also provided scholarships for students in that program.
The initiatives are about creating a pathway into the industry, Moore said.
"The term pathway is used extensively within the educational world. And that's exactly what we're doing," he said. "We're taking that terminology and creating a construction pathway. I can reach the level of middle school, high school, and I can show what our industry is and what it's all about. Then our organization and our members are going to see a lot more success in being able to attract students to our field, essentially workers to our industry."