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New student construction program aims to fill labor shortage

A steelworker on an Idaho project. Construction workers are needed across the state. Twin Falls School District hopes to ease the shortage with a new program. File photo

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — A southern Idaho school district is offering a construction program for students in hopes of helping to fill a regional labor shortage.

High School students from across the Twin Falls School District can travel to one facility to learn how to build a building, from the foundation to the framing to the exterior and interior finishes.

“They’re going to have the skills they need to go out and get that job in the trades,” teacher Cameron Hoge told The Times-News.

About 75 students have enrolled in the program so far. Officials plan to add a second-year course that will move students onto a construction site to work directly with area employers.

“It’s a good opportunity for them to explore and see if its something they’re interested in,” he said. “There’s always a need for somebody that’s skilled in a trade.”

The district developed the class with the help of local contractors as a way to combat Idaho’s dwindling skilled labor force. A 2019 survey from the Associated General Contractors of America found that 83% of Idaho contractors reported they struggled to find qualified employees for hourly positions.

Twin Falls’ city economic development director Nathan Murray said housing growth has stalled at between 200 and 250 new houses a year in the area, and there are a limited number of contractors available for city projects such as road or sidewalk construction. He said the limited number of skilled workers increases costs for new homes and other construction work.

Student Joselynn Ward said she finds the hands-on nature of the course engaging. The opportunity to get ahead is encouraging her to consider a career in construction, she said.

“It’s a lot more fun than just sitting at a desk and doing paperwork,” Ward said. “Although we do take notes, we are still very hands-on.”

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