Charlotte academy trains people for jobs in the construction industry

A survey by Associated Builders and Contractors shows that 58% of respondents reported a “severe” or “very severe” labor shortage within the construction industry.

CHARLOTTE, NC — Inside a facility within the strip of commercial buildings along Interstate 85 in north Charlotte, students are focused.

The class is working to shape their future. Christal Partlow-Robbins is one of them.

“I always take advantage of opportunities when they come my way because you never know what’s going to happen,” Partlow-Robbins said.

Earlier this year, she made a life-changing decision.

“I have my own cleaning business,” Partlow-Robbins shared. “I was cleaning banks and retirement homes. The contracts started getting weird. I thought, ‘Wait a minute, there’s no stability in this at all.’ When I heard, ‘Free opportunity, go out and do something new,’ I was all in.”

That free opportunity is the Home Builders Institute’s BuildStrong Academy.

“It’s about making a difference,” said Wendy Lyons. “It’s about changing lives. It’s about helping people and our communities. It’s about helping people feel good about themselves.”

Lyons, HBI’s operations manager, said the academy is expected to open in March 2024.

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The program is a combination of online and hands-on work, allowing students to get nine weeks of free training in carpentry and electrical work.

“The goal of being here is to get our students into industry-related jobs,” Lyons said.

A recent survey by Associated Builders and Contractors shows that 58% of respondents reported a “severe” or “very severe” labor shortage within the construction industry.

The survey also notes that the industry needs to hire half a million workers on top of its standard hiring pace to be fully staffed by the end of this year.

“Our main question is: how can we create jobs for people by teaching them new skills?” Patrick Hamill explained. “An added benefit is that it benefits the housing industry.”

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Hamill, president of the BuildStrong Foundation, also said the goal is to expand and one day create a million jobs within the industry.

“When we started this, my long-term vision was how to create 20 academies,” he said. “To eventually get to a point where 5,000 jobs are created in a year.”

As for Partlow-Robbins, a recent graduate of the academy, she said she is focused on the opportunities for herself and her son, who will enter the program in the fall.

“I want him to have the advantage, the assurance that he will never have to clean another toilet or sweep another floor in his life unless he chooses to do so,” she said.

She was part of the first graduating class in Charlotte.

Partlow-Robbins said the long-term goal is to start a business with her son.

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