Hands On Tools Mobile Construction Training is HAPPENING!

Our VCE team is thrilled to announce our receipt of final notification for funding from the Economic Development Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, to launch and operate Hands on Tools Mobile Construction Training (HOT MCT), which will get tools in the hands of local youth, women, residents of fire-affected communities, and so many others.

HOT MCT is a multi-pronged approach to educate, recruit, train, and UpSkill the current and future construction workforce, address the North State’s crisis-level shortage of construction staff, and rebuild homes, lives, and the regional economy. This training utilizes a hands-on approach where students build community projects while learning about construction industry employment opportunities.

Three years after the devastating Camp Fire burned over 156,000 acres and resulted in the loss of more than 14,000 homes, only approximately 2,000 homes have been rebuilt. Local construction industry surveys have found that the number one roadblock to rebuilding is the lack of unskilled and skilled construction staff. This is where Hands on Tools Mobile Construction Training comes in.

HOT MCT is a Ford F-250 with a lumber rack pulling a 24’ trailer decked out as a classroom on wheels that will travel into rural Northern California communities to:

  1. Introduce young people and prospective future workers to the construction industry by putting their hands on tools through week-long or multi-week camps in partnership with junior high, high school and continuation schools, Boys & Girls Clubs of the North Valley, after school programs, Parks & Recreation Districts, probation programs, and volunteer build organizations.
  2. Teach potential future construction employees industry-recognized 80-hour NCCER CORE Curriculum, which includes construction safety, introduction to hand and power tools, communication skills, reading blueprints, and understanding construction math, among other things.
  3. Utilize industry-driven curriculum to UpSkill the current construction workforce in the specialties in highest demand, including concrete finishing, mechanical (HVAC), electrical, and plumbing.
  4. Provide OSHA-required safety trainings for the current construction workforce on-site, eliminating the need to send workers out of town to complete these trainings.

This project is truly a community collaboration, enlisting construction industry professionals, community partners, and education to address the region’s critical need to expand the construction workforce.

“VCE’s construction trainings have an incredible impact on our kids’ futures,” said Rashell Brobst, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the North Valley. “This year’s Youth of the Year, Marcus, mentioned in his award acceptance speech that his experience at VCE’s Electrical Camp was life-changing, as he was able to work hands-on in a field he’s been interested in entering. He is one of many who will remember these classes for a lifetime.”

Due to the rural nature of our region, it is necessary to have a mobile approach to HOT MCT. Many communities affected by the recent wildfires are in remote, mountainous areas that make it challenging for students to travel to bigger cities for education and training. It is also a challenge for low-income residents, where cost may be a barrier to traveling these distances and/or paying for these courses. By meeting potential workers where they are, so many more in our community will have the opportunity to secure well-paying, upwardly mobile careers in construction, all while playing a role in the region’s emotional healing post-disaster.

“It is an honor to partner with Valley Contractors Exchange on this progressive recovery project,” said Laurie Kee, SVP Director of Relationship Banking for Golden Valley Bank. “The Golden Valley Bank Community Foundation has focused our efforts on restoring the fire survivors to sustainable long-term housing. We view the Hands on Tools Mobile Construction Training project as a way to carry these efforts well into the future by providing individuals, and specifically youth, with much needed training in the construction industry. The skills learned will be used in restoring housing and hope to all affected. We applaud the efforts of everyone involved in this project and look forward to seeing the revitalization take place in our communities.”

Thus far, projects have range from building a tiny home, to dog houses, to cornhole boards that were used for the Paradise Recreation and Park District “Epic Cornhole Tournament” fundraising event. Funding secured for this project includes salaries for a full-time instructor and part-time administrative support staff position, which will allow for the number of projects to grow exponentially in the coming months.

“Our Butte Strong Fund citizens committee felt strongly about supporting this excellent program with a $326,000 grant,” said Chris Copeland, an NVCF program officer specializing in housing for the Butte Strong Fund. “We are always looking for ways to help in the rebuilding effort, but it’s very complicated and requires varied approaches. This is an innovative one. The program will be run by skilled and connected building professionals to introduce young people to the construction trade, train eligible workers and upskill the current workforce. Elements of the program will also introduce fire survivors to the construction industry to provide opportunity to help replace homes that were lost.”

Hands on Tools Mobile Construction Training would not be possible without a broad coalition of support, including our in kind and financial sponsors. In addition to the EDA, we are incredibly grateful to the North Valley Community Foundation, Butte Strong Fund, Golden Valley Bank, the Chico Chamber of Commerce, the Calvin and Tina Tyler Foundation, PG&E, SERVE, and Tehama Group Communications.

Now let’s get rolling!

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