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CATEC in need of building trades instructor

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A national shortage in skilled workers in the construction industry has left a key instructor position at the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center vacant for the coming school year.

CATEC has not yet found an qualified instructor to lead its Building Trades program, director Stephanie Carter said. Sixty students are signed up for classes in the program for the coming school year.

“We have 60 students that have signed up because they want to learn building trades,” Carter said. “If we don’t have an instructor, that’s 60 potential future employees that aren’t gonna get the opportunity to learn it.”

The Building Trades program at CATEC teaches students the ins and outs of residential construction from carpentry to plumbing. Those classes used to include instruction related to the electricity industry, but CATEC recently expanded to start a separate electricity program following a three-year effort to build out the programs.

The construction industry nationally is facing a workforce shortage, according to February 2022 report from the Associated Builders and Contractors. The organization estimated that the industry would need to bring in nearly 650,000 workers to meet the expected demand in 2022.

“What we’re hearing from our business partners really is that they also are struggling to find any employees,” Carter said. “If we don’t have the instructors to train [students], the shortage is just going to get worse.”

A qualified candidate for the position would be somebody who has worked in the construction industry for at least five years and is licensed in one of the construction trades, Carter said. CATEC will work to get the instructor licensed through the state. A bachelor’s degree isn’t required.

An instructor with five years of experience would start at $56,047, according to Albemarle County’s teacher salary scale. Carter said the job would offer a schedule conducive to someone with a family. The position also for 10 months out of the year and comes with paid holidays off and full-time benefits.

‘Direct impact’

In May, the school held a ceremony to recognize 22 students who were going to work full-time with a local company after graduation, Carter said. Students who complete a CATEC program earn an industry certification. Some students also have internships with local businesses through CATEC.

“If CATEC doesn’t have instructors, it’s a direct impact to our local workforce,” Carter said.

The building trades position is CATEC’s only vacant instructor job for the coming school year. However, the school will need to hire more instructors in order to reduce its waitlist. Currently, about 100 students are waiting for a spot at the school.

Carter said enrollment requests at CATEC were up 40% compared to the 2019-20 school year. Compared to the recent school year, requests are up 48%. Every program at CATEC has a waiting list, including building trades.

“Because our waiting list is so long and our enrollment is so high, the only way to really address it is to hire,” Carter said. “This isn’t a problem that’s going to be solved by filling this one position. We’re going to need more people.”

Carter said the enrollment increase is driven in part by students who are concerned about taking on student debt after high school and want to take advantage of CATEC’s free programs.

“CATEC is a great deal, and it’s also hands-on,” Carter said. “I think post-pandemic, students are really enjoying a hands-on class that allows a certain level of freedom and self-expression and a project-based approach.”

For those who have signed up for the building trades classes, Carter said she doesn’t want to tell those students no.

The new building trades instructor would use a curriculum that’s already been created.

“We also have a team that meets to help plan and plan the instruction,” Carter said, adding that there’s professional development available through the county school division.

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