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Marin County construction education program for high school seniors gets $300,000 commitment

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A program that readies high school seniors to be trained in construction trades is entering its second year in Marin County, thanks to new multiyear funding.

North Bay Construction Corps launched in 2017 to encourage more youth to pursue careers in an industry whose ranks were thinned during the Great Recession but has faced labor shortages since the postwildfire rebuild. Last year, it expanded to Marin with support from the Mario Ghilotti Family Foundation, and now it has made a $300,000 commitment to keep it going, according to Marin Builder’s Association, which worked with Career Technical Education Foundation to launch the program locally.

In the five counties where the program is now operating, over 150 young men and women have been recruited.

“A national survey of homebuilders conducted recently revealed a startling statistic, one that likely applies to the Marin County,” said Rick Wells, CEO for Marin Builder’s Association. “For every five construction workers who will retire over the next several years, only one new worker is entering the field. That is unsustainable.”

The foundation provided initial seed funding last year for the first Marin class, located at Terra Linda High School. Twenty-one students participated in the semesterlong program, and 14 graduated from the two-week summer boot camp, earning a $750 stipend and participating in the job fair for entry-level jobs.

This year 27 Marin seniors were accepted into the 2020 program.

The course includes classes that meet one night a week and one Saturday a month and are taught by local construction industry representatives. The goal is to give students a sampling of what it’s like to work in a variety of trades and to expose them to multiple employers. Students learn the fundamentals of tool handling, safety, electrical, plumbing, carpentry and solar energy. They also earn a variety of safety certifications recognized by the industry, intended to give students a significant competitive advantage as they seek entry level work or further training such as an apprenticeship.

The boot camp allows students to practice their skills and experience day-to-day work life in the industry while earning a scholarship. Along with trade-based technical skills, students learn soft skills such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, leadership and working on deadlines, which are all applied throughout the program.

Additional support has come from Mission San Rafael Rotary Club and Sausalito Rotary Club. Makita has also pledged to help the new program with the donation of power tools for students to use during the program and in boot camp.

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