Local Organizations Create Apprenticeship After Construction Worker Shortage

FORT SMITH (KFSM)- As construction companies are seeing a large skill gap in the industry in our area, the Fort Smith Adult Education Center and Homebuilders Association are working to bridge that gap with a residential construction apprentice program.

"Fort Smith is growing by leaps and bounds in the construction area," said Stephanie Stipins, Fort Smith Homebuilders Association executive director. "Individuals who are in the building industry whether it be builders, painters, framers, carpenters, any of those people are looking for employees. They're looking for guys to get out there in the field and build these homes."

Stipins said she's received calls from numerous builders looking for people to work.

"I had a call from a builder who said if you can send me two painters, two framers, two finished carpenters, I can put them to work tomorrow," Stipins said. "We're hoping to be able to fill that gap with our new program."

The apprenticeship would allow students to work while earning an education.

"It's really exciting for the program and the people it's serving," said Fort Smith Adult Education Center Director Gary Udouj. "Those adults may not have that option; they don't have the money to go to school or don't see themselves as a college student, but you look at the apprenticeship program and can make that money and they can go to school one night a week and within 18 months, they'll have this residential construction apprenticeship."

Those at the Adult Education Center said getting started is as easy as walking through the front door.

"We are open entry, open exit," Udouj said. "You can come in anytime, you don't have to have an appointment."

Those seeking jobs will help with the continued growth in Fort Smith and surrounding areas.

"If you don't have a person to do the work, then obviously we can't get the work done," Stipins said. "They need these individuals to continue that growth. In order to continue this progress, we need people to do the work."

A pre-apprenticeship program will be offered in July for those interested in what the fall program will offer.

For more information or how to register for the Residential Construction Apprentice Program, contact the Fort Smith Adult Education Center at (479) 785-1232 or the Fort Smith Homebuilders Association at (479) 452-6213.