POLIS-CONVENTION-CENTER-04102020-KS-276 (copy)

Construction crews can be seen working in the long corridors of individual care rooms that are being erected in the Colorado Convention Center on April 10, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. 

Denver is set to expand its Careers in Construction program beginning next year, providing training and recourses for high school students looking to go into construction.

The Denver City Council unanimously approved the establishment of a Denver Construction Careers Contribution Fund to fund the program expansion on Monday.

The Careers in Construction program is currently offered in 28 high schools in Colorado, including Career Education Center Early College, George Washington High School and Legacy Options High School in Denver.

“This is a mechanism for industry to help fund the talent pipeline for construction,” said Marcus Johnson, who oversees the program. “When a student participates in this program and completes their certification, they will be eligible to work with local business owners in the industry.”

The program provides students with modules and testing to receive national certificates in carpentry, electrical, HVAC, masonry and more, in addition to connecting students to paid internships and pre-apprenticeship programs.

With Monday’s council approval, Johnson said the city will expand the program to more Denver schools, which costs $30,000 per school to pay for the program’s annual operating costs.

The expansion will be funded by the Denver Construction Careers Contribution Fund, which would come from an opt-out general contractors fee of $25 for residential permits and $200 for commercial permits.

With approximately 5,000 residential permits and 2,500 commercial permits granted in Denver annually, the fund will raise $625,000 if no contractors opt-out of the fee. If only 60% contribute to the fund, it will raise $375,000, which Johnson said would still be enough to expand the program to new schools.

During a committee meeting, council members raised concerns about whether Denver Public Schools wants to participate in the program, as the district previously shied away from efforts like Construction Career Days to instead promote higher education to students.

“The schools themselves are banging down the door begging for programming, industry interaction,” said Lisa Seaman with the Association of General Contractors, which runs the program. “As far as the district alignment, I would say it’s coming along. The tide is turning.”

Seaman said 817 Colorado students are involved in the program since it began operating in the Denver area three years ago. She said the association hopes to expand the program to 65 more high schools in Colorado in the next four years.

The Denver Construction Careers Contribution Fund is expected to launch in early 2022.

Local industry groups will work to do public outreach with contractors about the importance of opting in for the fee to help build their future talent pipeline, Johnson said.

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