[caption id="attachment_5537" align="alignright" width="300"]NITcropped NIT pipefitting students[/caption] By Denise Norberg-Johnson, NCCER Program Auditor After more than twenty years of searching for solutions to the craft workforce shortage, employers are still looking to the same sources for qualified workers. While working as a program auditor for NCCER, I’ve discovered some hidden treasures that exceed the standards many public schools and traditional training programs are struggling to meet. Here are three unique programs that are successfully training workers for careers in the construction industry: Northern Industrial Training In Palmer, Alaska, Northern Industrial Training (NIT) provides several levels of heavy equipment training. A commercial driver’s license certification is included in the longer programs, and the Elite Combo course includes a substantial welding component. Trainees practice their skills at the state fairgrounds and on community projects. With a placement rate of more than 90 percent for all programs, there is often a waiting list of employers who attend quarterly hiring panels where they pitch their companies to the students. NIT is part of a network of regional schools that have each built lab facilities for particular crafts, reducing replication of facilities and expanding the number of crafts in the program. Since trainees often face financial challenges, the company also works with corporations, the Veterans’ Administration, local native organizations, non-profit organizations and the Department of Labor to develop tuition subsidies and free temporary housing to ensure that they complete their training. Vatterott College [caption id="attachment_5538" align="alignright" width="300"]Vatt1 Training lab at Vatterott College[/caption] As public school systems struggle to meet competency standards, a bias against for-profit schools lingers throughout academia. That doesn’t bother the career and technical education program managers at Vatterott Educational Centers, Inc., based in St. Louis, Missouri. Vatterott's craft trainees contribute monthly hours to community projects. Vatterott's Kansas City campus earned the Truman Habitat for Humanity Dream Maker Award in 2010 and the chance to participate in a 2012 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition episode. Vatterott’s multi-tiered evaluation system reflects its commitment to excellence. Instructors are evaluated every five weeks by both students and supervisors, and overall site evaluations are rigorously documented. A meticulous recordkeeping and data management system creates and supports an environment of continuous improvement throughout the craft training programs. South Dakota Housing Development Authority About 150 homes are constructed and delivered each year to sites throughout South Dakota to provide housing for low-income and elderly citizens. These homes are constructed through the South Dakota Housing Development Authority on the grounds of a state correctional facility. Inmates punch a time clock and earn a small hourly wage, fabricating and installing nearly impeccable cabinets, trim, flooring, HVAC ductwork and plumbing installations – with less than 1 percent wasted material. Many of the trainees hope that local contractors will give them the opportunity to prove that they have earned the chance to live outside of the razor wire. As contractors bemoan the lack of qualified craftspeople, these kinds of programs are doing their part to solve the problem. I encourage contractors to think outside the box when it comes to finding skilled craft professionals.

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NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.