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Summer Careers Academy to bring apprenticeship program to Orange County

Construction workers operate equipment on E. Rosemary St. on Wednesday, March 1, 2022.

The Summer Careers Academy, a new youth apprenticeship program, recently launched on Feb. 22 for young adults aged 16 to 24 in Orange County.

The eight-week program, set to take place over the summer, will consist of in-classroom learning and paid on-the-job experience, according to the program's website. Upon finishing the program, participants are prepared for immediate full-time jobs. 

The model for this year's program focuses on the skilled construction trades. 

They use National Center for Construction Education and Research curriculum, an industry-recognized program that covers topics like basic safety, communication skills and an introduction into construction drawings. 

“Our students will quickly learn safety protocols, get introduced to the trades and earn their OSHA 10 certificate,” Katie Loovis, vice president for external affairs for The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro, said. “For the final seven weeks of the eight week training program, they will be hired by local employers and will work directly for those employers getting paid a learning wage.”

The Summer Careers Academy was formed by a coalition of leaders from educational, employer and governmental institutions. They hoped to reestablish an apprenticeship program in Chapel Hill, and their mission has since expanded to engage more employers and industries.

The program used research from the Skilled Construction Trades Study that was published in 2020 by The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro to help develop the program. The study details an ongoing industry-wide shortage among construction workers. 

The Chamber's study uses research from the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, which projected a need for 1,855 more construction trades workers in the Raleigh-Durham region by 2026, a 3.8 percent growth from 2017. 

Holly Fraccaro, who serves as CEO for the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham County, said a staggering number of people have retired out of trade industries and not as many individuals have entered the field since the Great Recession. 

An Employer Needs Survey conducted by LEAD in 2018 found that the top hardships in finding applicants for jobs in North Carolina was a lack of work experience, technical skills and education. 

LEAD projected a 17 percent increase for employment in the construction industry from 2018 to 2028 for the Raleigh-Durham area.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Tai Huynh said the current expectation is for students to eventually attend a four-year university. 

“We have a very small number of students who get exposed to what a career in the skilled trades can look like,” he said. 

According to a report by MyFutureNC, 80,450 individuals from Orange County and surrounding areas were enrolled in NC community colleges from 2018 to 2019, while only 2,661 were enrolled in an ApprenticeshipNC program. There were 139,487 individuals enrolled in an undergraduate institution from 2017 to 2018. 

“It doesn’t only impact the construction industry, it goes to plumbing, electricians — there’s a whole host of different trades beyond that where we’re seeing huge shortages,” Huynh said.

Fraccaro said there needs to be a lot done to bring more individuals to trade careers from both public school systems and the community as a whole. 

"We’re really working on both of those tactics to bring some awareness to what a great future a career in construction offers people,” she said. 

@sam_long16 | @DTHCityState |

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