Four years ago, when the Lake County School System and the Villages Charter High School started making plans to start construction academies, students who wanted to pursue not college-bound programs in construction had no place to go. After a decade of malaise in the construction industry due to the economic collapse of 2008, an inflection of construction growth collided with an industry in which the base labor had shrunk dramatically because of age and the economy. Simply put there were not enough people for the construction demand.
It was also during this time in which educators and political leaders began to really discuss the value of a college education and if it would leave the student with unimaginable student debt for a mid-level career. It wasn’t hard to figure out that good-paying jobs in construction were plentiful, and if properly trained in high school or technical school, students could walk into some amazing job opportunities.
The number of students who signed up initially for the academies was low and everything had to be set up and organized. Nevertheless, strong public-private advisory boards started guiding the way, and along with a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter students began working on real projects and learning real skills. Building houses and preparing students for great careers was no longer a dream, it was happening. Every academy started seeing excitement, and growth, along with summer jobs through the Academy of Construction Technologies program. Also, with a little help of video promotion of the projects, the programs at all the locations have taken off.
Based on early student sign-ups, the Leesburg Construction Academy will have almost 200 students, South Lake Academy will be over 100 students, the Eustis Construction Academy and Umatilla HVAC Academy will be well over 60 students and the Villages Charter High School Construction Academy will be maxed out at around 50 students. Additionally, the Wildwood High School HVAC academy is going to start this year. In the next year, Lake and Sumter County could potentially have almost 500 students training to enter the construction industry. Considering the huge number of jobs available, this is just a start.
These construction academies need your help. If you are a leader in the construction industry in one of the areas where the academies are located, would you consider donating an hour each month to serve on the advisory board to help guide the curriculum, the Habitat Projects, and student training? Donating time is easy and very rewarding.
Each academy is in desperate need of mentors and guest speakers who can show firsthand the various skill sets in the classroom. You do not need a college education to be a mentor or speaker, all you need is a willingness to share your construction knowledge.
We also need vendors and subcontractors to work on the Habitat for Humanity Construction projects in The Villages, Leesburg, Eustis, and South Lake who would be willing to donate time and energy to train these students. If you are selected as an approved vendor by Habitat, you will be compensated for your work. Plus, if you would like to donate services or materials to the projects, it is always welcomed.
For the students and the construction industry, these local high school construction academies are making a difference and so can you. If you would like to participate in any of the construction academies please email Don.Magruder@RoMacFl.com or Danielle Stroud from Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter at firstname.lastname@example.org .
We are not just building houses; we are building lives.