Georgia Construction Ready program starting at Columbus Tech

Students at a 2020 Construction Ready class in Atlanta took part in a free 20-day construction education program that ended with training, credentialing and job placement.

Students at a 2020 Construction Ready class in Atlanta took part in a free 20-day construction education program that ended with training, credentialing and job placement.

Construction Ready

In only 20 days, a person with no experience or skills in the construction industry can be trained up for an entry-level position, a new statewide program coming to Columbus promises.

It’s called Construction Ready, a job training program conducted by the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia.

It starts Oct. 18 at Columbus Technical College, with onboarding beginning Oct. 12, and it’s free to attend.

The latest figures from CEFGA show Georgia had a shortage of more than 61,000 construction workers in 2019.

“The shortage has continued through the COVID-19 pandemic,” CEFGA says on its website.

Impact of Construction Ready

Construction Ready’s first three sites have been in metro Atlanta: Westside, Cobb County and East Point. Since the program started in 2014, CEFGA says, it has:

  • Trained more than 1,000 construction workers who earn an average starting salary of $13-$16 an hour.
  • Placed 97% of the 1,234 program graduates in a job by the end of training.
  • Seen 70% of them retain that job one year later.

At a news conference last month announcing the program’s expansion into Columbus, Mayor Skip Henderson said, “This is a big deal. It’s something we’re incredibly grateful for and excited about.”

The program could help citizens find productive opportunities toward affording a mortgage, raising a family and making a positive difference in the community, Henderson said.

“One of the things that leads to more crime is not having access to a job,” he said.

Construction worker shortage in Columbus

Listen to local construction leaders, and their workforce shortage is clear.

“We really, really feel the pain of the labor issues,” said Robinson Paving president Jackie Robinson. “We’re pretty much to the point where, if you can function as a human, we will hire you. … You may not last until lunchtime, but we will give you the opportunity.”

That’s why Webb Construction co-owner Stuart Webb welcomes this program.

“This is a much-needed boost to our industry,” he said. “… Even if it’s just a 20-day program, … giving them a basis of knowledge, it will get them into the industry and (help) them understand what to look for when they’re on a job site.”

Columbus Technical College president Martha Ann Todd praised the partnership with the mayor’s office and CEFGA.

“We see it as a great steppingstone,” she told the construction leaders in the room. “Hopefully you’ll hire every one of these folks and you’ll send them right back to us to get some more skills.”

What does the program consist of?

The program is designed to mimic a construction job site, complete with contracts signed by the participants, said Alexis Muir, CEFGA’s associate director for placement and employer engagement.

“If they are late, they lose points,” she said. “If they’re not wearing the proper PPE, they lose points.”

The curriculum helps graduates earn industry-recognized credentials in:

  • National Center for Construction Education and Research core
  • Occupational safety
  • First Aid/CPR
  • Power tools
  • Laser tools
  • Forklift awareness
  • Utility flagging
  • Fall protection.

The curriculum also covers career skills such as resume writing and interviewing.

CEFGA connects graduates with construction companies looking for workers. Day 19 of the program is a reverse job fair, where the recruiters walk around to the students seated at tables.

“Our entire state needs workforce development,” said Mike Dunham, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Georgia. “… We’re fixing to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives through this program across the state.”

Construction Ready’s expansion this year into Columbus, Augusta, Macon and Savannah, plus another metro Atlanta site in Gwinnett County, is funded in part by $3.3 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund, which is part of the federal CARES Act, according to the Columbus mayor’s office.

Construction Ready eligibility and registration

Registration and more information about the program is at ConstructionReady.org.

The eligibility requirements are:

  • Submit a resume
  • Pass a drug screening and a background check
  • Georgia resident at least 18 years old
  • Physically fit and able to lift 50 pounds or more
  • Pass the Test for Adult Basic Education (sixth-grade level)
  • Able to attend all 20 classes, which run 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays-Fridays.
  • Have reliable transportation.

After the first Construction Ready class at Columbus Tech runs Oct. 18-Nov. 12, others are planned in 2022 for Feb. 28-March 25, May 9-June 3, Aug. 1-26 and Oct. 2-28, plus Feb. 6-March 3 in 2023.

“The Columbus classes can handle about 21 students,” Construction Ready spokesman Mitch Leff told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email. “If we get more than that, we’ll schedule an additional class.”

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.

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