In a community marked America’s fastest-growing hometown, The Villages is surrounded by construction. With expanding neighborhoods and new houses going up daily – this area demonstrates a unique need for trained craft professionals.
The Villages, located in central Florida, is an active adult retirement community for people aged 55 and above. With 32 square miles, over 100,000 residents, and a wide variety of shopping centers, restaurants and hospitals, the construction industry is booming. Luckily, The Villages Charter School (TVCS) recognized this and created a unique opportunity for students to get involved in the industry.
TVCS is a public charter school that runs from early childhood to high school. The school accepts students who live in The Villages or have parents who work within the community. In the 2019-2020 school year, the school had a record-breaking enrollment of 3,320 students, according to Principal Robin Grant.
The school is set up with 13 different academies, or career paths, that students can choose from when they enter their sophomore year of high school. Ranging from culinary arts to journalism to construction to engineering – these students begin pursuing their chosen career paths through certification or college courses. In 2017, the construction management academy was added to introduce students to one of the most prevalent fields around their community – construction.
“This is the perfect place to start a construction management program,” Grant said. “There is construction happening all around us. Neighborhoods are expanding and up to 250 new homes are built monthly, there is a need for people to join the industry.”
Additionally, as children of workers and contractors in The Villages, many of these students have parents who work in the industry. Pursuing the construction management track gives these students the chance to get a head start and continue the tradition of working in the industry.
Because the program is just starting out, construction teacher Bruce Haberle is still refining it for his students. Haberle wants to do three things for his students: prepare them, get them in the industry and set them up for success in their career.
Since he started in 2018, Haberle switched the class curricula to utilize NCCER textbooks and training. In a student’s first year in the academy, they will complete OSHA 10 training and Core Curriculum. The following year, students complete Carpentry 1 while working on a special project.
Each year, Haberle’s senior class helps construct a home off-site for Habitat for Humanity. This project gives students a platform to practice the skills they are learning with real-life applications like reading blueprints, working on a schedule and keeping an efficient pace. In their senior year, students are able to see what a career in construction is really like. This year, students worked to construct a 1,200-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home.
Pushing to teach his students real-life applications of construction concepts, Haberle relies on the Habitat for Humanity project and entry-way pop quizzes. As students enter his classroom, he will ask them to split measurements or do simple math in their head. Overtime, this ensures that students are consistently improving their construction math and making it second nature.
Though the program is still young, it has growing enrollment and continued success in placing students in the industry. Haberle contributes a lot of this success to the program’s backing by the six top contractors in The Villages. Coined “The Big Six,” they sit on a board and support the program with insight, tools, supplies and monetary backing.
“They are the lifeline of the program,” Haberle said. “They are always asking us what we need, they’re always ready to help out.”
As Haberle looks to expand the program and search for more partnerships in the community, he is hopeful that the program will provide students with a critical pathway to a career in construction. During its growth, he is hoping to tailor the program to suit the needs of the community and local construction industry.
“I just want to give my kids the biggest chance I can,” Haberle said.