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Skills Gap

“There’s a big skills gap, as far as what students are learning and the needs of the community—the jobs that are available!”
—Cameron Hoge

    This is Andrew Brackman (of The Finishing Touch, a Brackman Group business) interviewing Cameron Hoge, teacher of Building Construction courses at Twin Falls School District. 

 AB: I first met you, Cameron, several years ago when you were a general contractor whose business name was Sunrise Construction. In those days, you specialized in remodels, additions, and cabinetry, but I believe you started out in the building trades as a carpenter.


CH:  That’s right. You and I met when I needed some concrete work done for one of my customers, and I subbed that out to The Finishing Touch.

I worked with you and Matt on a few jobs before I decided to make a significant change When I became a teacher of High School students!

AB  That’s right, it was a Big Change! What prompted it?

CH:  Well, I started noticing how much more difficult it was becoming to hire good employees. And that made everything else much more of a challenge because I couldn’t do everything well without the help of good people working with me. No one can grow a business without the professional staff to serve their customers.

AB:  What made you decide to teach?

CH: My wife is a teacher, so I have some insight into that profession and the Twin Falls School District. That made it something I would consider generally, but it became a sensible idea because someone has to teach these skills, or they will be lost. So, I decided to propose a Construction Program for high school-age students.

AB:  That was recently, right? 

CH:  Yes, we received a good reception from the School District as it was confirmed that there is a strong need:
A 2019 Associated General Contractors of America survey found that 83% of Idaho contractors struggled to find qualified employees for hourly positions.

Around that time, the city’s Economic Development Director noted that housing growth had stalled at 200 and 250 new houses a year in the area, and there were a limited number of contractors available for city projects such as road and sidewalk construction. He said the lack of skilled workers also increases costs for new homes and other construction work.

So, the TFSD put together a committee to see what new Career and Technical Programs (CTE) they could add, and Building Construction was the most feasible option then. With another housing boom on the rise, having a program to teach students practical entry skills leading to a job after high school made sense.

We started the program in September 2019 with three class offerings of 25 students each, so we had 75 students in our first year. The course has been popular ever since.

The program is divided into two semesters and one full year for three levels (over two years). During the first two semesters, we spent much time going through the different construction phases in our classroom/shop. The level 3 class has some on-the-job building projects for the students. 2020-2021, we constructed a 30’x 30’ storage building at South Hills Middle School.

This year, 2021, we’ve completed a greenhouse at Twin Falls High School—built for their agriculture program with free labor recruited from the Building Construction Program. Andrew Brackman volunteered his time in the greenhouse and claims he hired an excellent summer employee he met on the project! Several more of those projects are on the drawing board.

AB:  And somewhere in there, I got involved!

CH:  That’s right! We’ve been seeking area contractors to serve on our Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), and you, Andrew Brackman, are one of our technical advisors. 

We thank you for that! We look forward to your help on more projects, allowing our students to learn from your experience and knowledge in the excavation and concrete trades. 

AB:  Do you still need local volunteers, and is there anything you want to share about serving on the TAC?

CH:  We ask that our TAC members serve at least 2-3 years. In the future, we will be looking for new members from the community to rotate in, but only some at a time. We want to keep some senior members in to help with the new ones and rotate slowly. We also want to work with every employer in the building trades within our community. We can always use help with the needs of our program and students. Also, I want people to know they do not have to be on our TAC to contact me with questions or discuss ways to work together. Thank you, Andrew, for volunteering to be a part of this!

AB:  You’re welcome! So, Cameron, thank you for the interview, and I wish you well because we could all use more good employees! 

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