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High schoolers learn building skills to address industry shortage

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Posted at 4:41 PM, Oct 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-24 16:41:27-04

ERLANGER, Ky. -- There's a shortage in the building trades that could impact the cost of a new home and how quickly it can be built. 

Northern Kentucky's building industry is trying to counter that with training programs for adults and high school students. They say it's important for residents and the region's economy.

Boone County High School senior Ryan Hartig is one of them. He was hard at work Tuesday, learning how to frame a wall for a new home. He measured and marked the wood, cut it with a chop saw and helped assemble the finished product with a nail gun. He was at ease with the tools.

"It's more about the creativity aspect on what you imagine you can build," he said. "It's not writing on a piece of paper every day."

Hartig is part of a carpentry class at the Enzweiler Building Institute, which is sponsored by the Building Industry Association of Northern Kentucky. The adult program has been around for 50 years, but this is just their second year offering it to high school students.

The program is "good exposure" for the students, according to instructor Kevin McKnight.

"A lot of these guys have a natural back for it, and some don't," he said.

The region's building trades will need 46,000 people in the next 10 years, according to association Executive Vice President Brian Miller.

"Those aren't just new jobs. Those are replacement jobs," he said. "Our average age of a worker out in the field is 54, and that's just tenable for the coming years."

Not filling those jobs would mean higher costs for new houses and longer construction time, according to Miller.

"Currently, homes we build in three to four months, we're looking at six months to a year," he said.

Hartig isn't sure he'll go into carpentry, but he knows he won't be working in an office anytime during his career.

"Hands-on labor -- be it metal, be it carpentry, plumbing, I don't mind -- it's any kind of hands-on labor, would be good," he said.

The program currently only exists in Boone County, serving almost 700 students a year. But there are plans for an expansion into Campbell County in the next five years that could triple the number.