There is a little known advantage to the Interstate 26 construction in Buncombe and Henderson counties -- free training.
Through the NCDOT, people in underserved communities are eligible to attend highway construction trade academies. The idea is to bring long-term job opportunities to areas struggling with poverty.
The NCDOT director for the Office of Civil Rights Shelby Scales said this program gives an open door for people to get good jobs.
"Not just in North Carolina, but all across the country, we are building infrastructure, and people are looking for good skilled workers, people who are willing to, you know, put the time into it," Scales said. "There are a lot of opportunities for growth in construction."
The program also offers support services, such as child care and accommodations, to help make sure potential workers succeed.
“Our goal is to target women, minorities and other disadvantaged populations, including veterans, the disabled, and residents of our poorer Tier 1 counties where there’s a need for such training and jobs,” Vanessa Powell, who administers the program for NCDOT’s Office of Civil Rights, said in a news release. “The course combines a mixture of safe classroom, virtual, hands-on and work-based learning formats.”
The HCTA program is a minimum four-week, full-time training course that initially will be hosted by community-based organizations statewide. The program is being funded by the Federal Highway Administration. Participants will be provided training on specific jobs as well as how to conduct job searches. They will also receive supportive services such as needed emergency short-term housing, daycare and transportation assistance.
The first two programs are being hosted at Passage Home in Southeast Raleigh and the Opportunities Industrialization Center in Rocky Mount. Three additional academies will be coming online shortly in James City, Fayetteville, Charlotte and Greenville. The class includes basic construction math, written and interpersonal skills, the OSHA-10 certification, and other more advanced skills such as flagger certification.
Plans call for five more HCTAs in Wilmington, Robeson County, the Triad, Asheville and Morganton. Each will be longer eight-week programs. As with all such HCTAs, the two Western North Carolina sites will be located in a major highway construction project area, namely I-26 in that instance.
It is projected that a workforce shortage of 60 percent or 500,000 skilled highway construction workers will exist over the next decade across the United States. The trend for North Carolina is similar, partly due to retirements of an aging industry labor force. A non-traditional labor supply is part of the answer for this essential sector.
Applications for the program will be available at each site as they continue to open around the state.
Click here to learn more about the N.C. Department of Transportation's On-the-Job Training Program.