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By Wordley Calvo Stock

Nothing is said to be certain, except death and taxes. But if you’re a home builder, you probably feel as if you could add the housing and labor shortages to that list. With a new academy offering free training to young, aspiring builders, professionals in North Alabama hope to spark the youth interest in the trades that is desperately needed to address the labor shortage and secure the industry's future. Paid for by a $20 increase in building permit fees, the program runs for four weeks during the day or eight weeks at night. When students graduate, they can expect to make at least $15-$16 per hour, which is a big difference compared to a $10 an hour fast-food gig. If successful, the academy could provide a model that shows a viable way to invest in the young builders of America.

North Alabama builders have a new tool to attract workers to build homes in the Huntsville area’s booming economy: free training in the building trades.

“Every trade we have is looking for employees,” Barry Oxley said Thursday as he and other builders joined state and local officials kicking off the new North Alabama Homebuilding Academy in Huntsville. Oxley is executive officer of the Huntsville Madison County Builders Association.

The free academy will offer qualified students eight weeks of free training in basic building skills. Qualifications include being 18 years old or 17 and about to graduate high school, able to work legally in the United States, able to pass a drug test and willing to work.

It will be funded by an increase in building permit fees of about $20, officials said.

Graduates can expect to start earning at $15-$16 per hour instead of $10 per hour in the fast-food industry, builders said. “We’re in a labor shortage,” builder Scottie McCluskey said. “If you’re willing to make more money than fast food, you can.”

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