Dirt flies as representatives from Chippewa Valley Technical College and the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association break ground for a new house in Eau Claire to be built by the CVTC students looking on. The finished house will be part of the CVHBA Parade of Homes in June 2019.

A new season of hands-on learning began Thursday, Aug. 30, when Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Residential Construction program broke ground on a new home construction project and celebrated a partnership with the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association (CVHBA).

Each year the students in the program gain hands-on experience while building a new home from the ground up. The students participating in the 2018-2019 program will build a home which will be entered into the CVHBA 2019 Parade of Homes, taking place June 8-15, 2019. Students joined business and CVHBA leaders at the job site at Lot 42 in Highclere Estates (off McKinley Road in Eau Claire) for the groundbreaking ceremony at which the CVHBA presented a check for $1,000 as a tool grant to the CVTC Residential Construction program.

The CVHBA and CVTC’s Residential Construction program are working together to address the need for more skilled workers in the construction industry.

“This is another way that CVTC and the CVHBA are promoting careers in the skilled trades,” said Christina Thrun, executive officer of the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association. “We’re excited to have the CVTC student-built home featured in the 2019 Parade of Homes. This is a great opportunity to showcase the variety of careers available in the construction industry in the Chippewa Valley.”

Demand for skilled trade workers

During the recession many local builders retired or left the industry, not returning as the housing market picked up. Additionally, fewer young people entering skilled trades has contributed to an aging workforce and concerns regarding the availability of construction workers in the next 10 years.

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According to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for Wisconsin skilled trade workers in construction has increased by 19 percent in the past three years and the average wage for a carpenter in Wisconsin is currently $49,530. Students leaving the CVTC Residential Construction program are finding jobs offering an average hourly rate of $16.26. Skilled trade workers also rank number one as the most in-demand roles in the United States, according to Manpower’s 2018 Talent Shortage Survey.

“CVTC’s Residential Construction program is a great way for young people to learn more about the construction industry and get hands-on experience that prepares them to work in residential construction and remodeling,” said Brian Barth, Residential Construction program director. “We are grateful to the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association for the awarding of the $1,000 tool grant, which will help provide the resources to assist young people in learning about careers in the construction trades.”

Barth said the donation would allow the program to buy two self-leveling laser levels.

Attending the groundbreaking was State Representative Treig Pronschinske (R-Mondovi), who is a graduate of the CVTC Residential Construction program and the owner of Pro Custom Builders in Menomonie. “This program really works,” Pronschinske said. “There are a lot of opportunities in skilled trades. There has never been a better time to get into skilled trades.”

Pronschinske added that he still had the same speed square he got when he was in the program in 1996. “It reminds me of where I came from,” he said.

Barth said the home will be 1,600 sq. ft. with a walk-out basement, three-car garage, three bedrooms upstairs and two downstairs, with a deck and a patio.

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