COLORADO SPRINGS – As builders struggle to keep up with the demand for new homes across the country, a shortage of workers is exacerbating the problem. Now, a program that began in Colorado Springs is aiming to help.

“We can look at what types of education people need, and high school diploma is often the first thing listed, and vocational training,” said Tatiana Bailey, a Ph.D economist and Director of the Economic Forum at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. “More than half of these positions only require the vocational training or the high school diploma.”

Careers in Construction is a program that ties the diploma to training. Since 2015, 350 high school students in the Pikes Peak Region have been placed in construction-related jobs.

“We’re trying to get into our local high schools to try and place locals into our industry,” said Chad Thurber, President of Vantage Homes and incoming 2022 President for the Colorado Springs Housing & Builders Association.

The program started through CSHBA and has since expanded across the state. At the beginning of 2020, nearly 1,400 students were ready to go into the program.

“Obviously, 2020 proved to be a challenge for construction training when you look at the COVID challenges,” Thurber said.

The program is returning in 2021 and at a crucial time, according to Bailey, as around 3,200 construction-related jobs have been just in the past year in the region.

“Getting the information out to young people about these jobs, about there being a livable wage, is number one,” Bailey said.

Thurber says in his company, most people start out around $20 per hour without experience, and the pay increases to $27 per hour for people with experience or training.

The average salary for jobs posted July-August is around $50,000, Bailey said. She reported the MIT living wage calculator puts Colorado Springs’ livable wage at $45,781 for a person in a two-worker home with two children.

“They are wonderful jobs and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon, not only because of the existing shortage, but also because of some of the other supply constraints that we’ve seen in the past year and a half, related to the pandemic.” Bailey said.