One of the ongoing issues affecting remodeling firms of all shapes and sizes is how and where to find qualified employees for everything from carpentry to sales. Whether you're in growth mode or simply looking for suitable replacements because of natural turnover, odds are that this is affecting your business as we speak.
The American College of the Building Arts, which will open its doors for the first day of classes on August 22, could become a source of employees for the professional remodeling industry. The school administration claims this is the first four-year, bachelor's-degree-granting institution in U.S. history solely focused on the building trades. Graduates will receive a bachelor's degree in applied science in one of six majors: ornamental ironwork, architectural stone, carpentry, masonry, plasterwork or timber framing. The curriculum combines courses in building techniques and general education, with approximately 50 percent of students' time spent in hands-on workshops.
"You won't come to the American College of the Building Arts to drink beer and watch football games," quips college president David AvRutick. "You come here because you have a passion for the building arts."
During the first and second years, students learn the fundamentals of installing building materials. In the third and fourth years, they put those skills into practice and explore more typical college-level general education courses — including history, mathematics, science and English — as they apply to the building industry. The end result will be a new class of trained job candidates the professional remodeling industry needs.
"A hundred years ago, you would talk about doctors, lawyers and artisans such as these in the same breath," says AvRutick. "That level of respect for the artisan has changed over time. One of our missions is to try and help raise that level of professionalism up to where it once was."
That mission runs parallel to that of the two major associations that have served to educate and facilitate the professional remodeling industry for years — NARI and the NAHB Remodelers Council. An additional party to help educate and promote professionalism should be a welcome asset to the industry.
The school (www.buildingartscollege.us), located in Charleston, S.C., already has attracted applicants from New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama and California. AvRutick has assembled a faculty that includes architects, interior designers and trade experts from across the globe. The student body, he says, includes "people in their 40s and 50s, some with master's degrees and also some 17- and 18-year-olds right out of high school."
Enrollment is limited to 144 students to allow for smaller class sizes. Tuition for the school year is $19,872, with students enrolling in this fall's inaugural class receiving a $1,500 credit.
"With the way our curriculum is structured, our graduates can be the craftspeople doing the work in the field or they can be the ones running the businesses," says AvRutick. "They can go on to get a master's, or they can take their bachelor's degree and go right out and get a job in any number of areas of the construction industry."
Who knows? One of them could be working for one of you four short years from now.