BEND, OR -- Several local builders are now working with Central Oregon Community College to develop a construction training program. Kirby Nagelhout Construction President Jeff Deswert says it’s necessary to address the shortage of qualified workers, "Coming out of the recession, the problem has just grown and so we’re all faced with it industry-wide." His is one of several companies now working with COCC and Continuing Education Program Manager Rachel Knox. She tells KBND News, "Really what we’re seeing is, employers coming to us and saying ‘we really want your help and we want to help you deliver the education that’s going to be the most relevant for our industry’."
The first class began earlier this month. Knox says they're starting with basic skills, "It includes everything from how to read a tape measure to how to actually show up on time for a job and be a really good worker." Deswert adds, "We’re saying that this is more of an apprenticeship program-leaning thing; although, that’s not the term we’re using for it. But, it’s a variation to going to traditional college." He says it's important to appeal to people who might not think they're able to attend traditional college, or who just aren't interested in spending a lot of time in the classroom. The new program is capped at 14 students so everyone gets hands-on opportunities, although Knox hopes it will eventually expand, "What we’re hoping to do is provide a higher bar for the employers so that when they’re hiring, they can say, ‘Yeah, we do want someone who we don’t have to spend as much time and money doing on the job training’."
Deswert says he never imagined he would be a college instructor. But, "Two weeks into it, it’s absolutely a blast," he says, "It’s much harder than you would imagine." SunWest Builders owner Steve Buettner is also teaching courses in the pilot program, and Knox says Griffin Construction, Hayden Homes and other local builders are involved, as well.