Helping More Colorado Students Tap their Potential

Reviving career and technical education helps Colorado's construction industry and the economy at large

The Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs (CSHBA) joined with enthusiastic regional educators two years ago to launch Careers in Construction (CiC) program. Supported by CSHBA members and educational allies and funded by voluntary permit fees from thousands of construction projects in the community, CSHBA brought vocational education back to the Pikes Peak region.

In other words, shop class is back.

The program started with fewer than 30 students in one high school and now includes more than 300 students enrolled in four participating districts and six high schools in and around Colorado Springs. This model adapted construction training material from the Home Builders Institute (HBI) originally designed for adults, and the students conquered it. With the high school technical education program up and running, what was next?


Thanks to a shared vision and grant from GE Johnson Construction, in the fall of 2017 the initiative expanded into the college classroom. Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC) has come on board in an articulation agreement that lets students rapidly advance to college-level instruction built on the same curriculum as the CiC program.

This means students who participated in CiC during high school can graduate with as many as 15 credits to apply to the pursuit of certificate programs and an associate degree in construction technology at PPCC. Aligning teaching platforms made this possible, streamlining the path to meaningful continued education for students who might not have attended college otherwise. It exposes them to deeper knowledge, fast-tracks them to an industry where they’re in demand, and empowers a whole new generation of young adults with possibilities through hands-on, experiential education.

As of the fall semester, PPCC students can enroll in courses to gain technical knowledge and skills in framing, plumbing, electrical, carpentry and other trade work. The response to this program has been overwhelming, with 125 students currently registered for courses this year.


The industry is in short supply of the skilled labor. The CiC program was created in part to address that, but there’s more at stake — like showing a kid who isn’t considered “traditional college material” that he or she can accelerate their path to higher education or step immediately into a job with earning potential and low barriers to becoming a small business owner.

When you give young people a chance to use their hands and their minds in concert, they can tap into a passion they might not otherwise have discovered. And that’s why we’re invested in this – whether that passion leads to a career in construction or simply sparks confidence that opens new opportunities.

Potential can take many forms. The continued health of our state economy hinges, at least in part, on helping young people uncover and apply their potential. This model is working, and with time, hopefully other high schools and higher education institutions statewide advance these principles and programs to help more kids find their way, make their mark and build a vibrant Colorado.

About the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs

Renee Zentz is CEO of the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs, founded in 1950 as the voice of the homebuilding community and associated trades. We advance best practices, advocate for affordable housing, contribute expertise to regional development issues and serve our community through our workforce initiatives and HBA Cares programs.

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