HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - So far, 85% of the graduates of the North Alabama Homebuilding Academy have gotten jobs in the industry and recently, the academy got some recognition. The National Association of Homebuilders awarded the NAHA “Best Workforce Development Plan” for the entire country.
Barry Oxley with the NAHA said they’ve been getting calls from all over the place asking about what they have going on here in Huntsville.
The academy opened in January of 2020 and has had a lot of success so far, completing five classes and graduating 62 people.
Oxley said the class is free, you just need to pass a drug test and get through the application process.
Once you get in the classes, you learn HVAC, plumbing, electrical, framing, the basics of power tools and other general construction skills.
Oxley said when you graduate you have the skills to start a career in the homebuilding industry and they help you get the ball rolling with a job fair right after graduation.
“We talked to people who are hiring our students and they said they can’t find this quality of student," he said.
During the coronavirus pandemic, people across the country have been struggling to find and maintain work, but in the construction industry the work never stopped.
“We were very blessed that during the pandemic we just kept on going, especially here in North Alabama because there’s such a big demand on housing here," Oxley said.
Oxley said because of the nature of the work, people will always need homebuilders.
“People need electricians, they need people to come fix their HVAC, they’re air conditioning, they’re heating, plumbers, they need people to come in and do roofing or build walls or stuff like that so there’s always a need for people in this industry,” he said.
In fact, the pandemic might’ve actually helped the industry.
“People sat at home and said, ‘We’ve been thinking about redoing our kitchen or our back porch,’ so they call and say, ‘Hey can y’all come out here and do this.’" Oxley said.
He said this isn’t for people who are just looking to start flipping houses or something like that, this is for people working minimum wage or a low income job and want to find a career.
“Every time I come to the academy and it’s filled with students and they’re cutting stuff and building things, it’s very uplifting because you see, here’s people who want to do something with their lives, learn a trade, we’re giving it to them and we’re gonna get them a job and they’re out in the industry helping us all out," he said.
Oxley even told a story about a homeless man who walked to their class everyday, did his work in their computer lab and now has a job in the industry and is renting an apartment.
Another great part is you don’t have to quit the job you have right now to focus on class. Oxley said classes are on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 5:30 to 8:30 for eight weeks, so people can work during the day and come to class at night. If you do have time to do the class during the day, there is an accelerated four week version Monday through Thursday with classes in the afternoon.
Oxley said the first few weeks students work on safety training, basic orientation and math skills. The next few weeks they’ll cover different projects and then the last few weeks is more specific training depending on which trade the student wants to specialize in.
Oxley said so far they’ve seen all kinds of people graduated. Folks ranging in age from 18-years-old to low 50s, he also said 25% of graduates have been women.
Since the NAHA just started in January they’re still working to let people know they exist.
“We really want to get the word out, because right now our classes are filled through the end of the year, but we’re already starting to fill classes starting in January," Oxley said.
If you are interested in applying for the North Alabama Homebuilding Academy go to the website and apply!