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How does a $43-an-hour job in Whatcom sound? This could get you there.

What will it take to start a career in construction?

A growing demand for construction workers has led Bellingham Technical College to offer a new program in carpentry. Build Your Future, a national nonprofit, says more than 1.5 million skilled craft professionals will be needed in the next four years.
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A growing demand for construction workers has led Bellingham Technical College to offer a new program in carpentry. Build Your Future, a national nonprofit, says more than 1.5 million skilled craft professionals will be needed in the next four years.

With a shortage of qualified help in the Northwest's hottest industry, Whatcom builders have partnered with a local college to attract more construction workers.

The Building Industry Association of Whatcom County has joined forces with Bellingham Technical College to offer a Construction Core Curriculum certificate this summer in an attempt to get more skilled workers into the industry.

Along with learning some basic skills like materials handling, construction math and power tools, the certificate can fulfill a prerequisite to some advanced courses, including carpentry and BTC's Advanced Construction Technology certificate.

The new program comes when demand for construction workers is very high in this area. According to projections from the state's Employment Security Department, Northwest Washington is expected to increase the number of construction jobs by 3.1 percent annually through 2020, which would make it the hottest industry in terms of job growth. Overall non-farm job growth is expected to be 1.6 percent for the same period.

Why are construction workers more in demand than many other industries in Whatcom County? One factor is what happened in the last recession, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state. Construction was hit harder than most industries in the 2008 recession, shedding a high percentage of jobs. It also took longer to bounce back, so when it finally did a couple of years ago, many of those laid-off workers had moved on to other careers.

Once someone is trained, construction companies are ready to pay. According to careersnw.org, entry- and mid-level construction jobs can pay up to $43 an hour.

Another reason unemployment rates are low is that people are reluctant to quit jobs to spend a lot of time in school for retraining. With this new construction certificate, someone could complete it while still working, said Walter Hudsick, vice president of Academic Affairs and Student Learning at BTC.

The class runs 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Mondays and 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from July 9 through Aug. 24.

"Our goal is to provide our students training with a quick turnaround that gives them the foundation they need to go further in their education or enter the job market," Hudsick said.

BTC plans on offering this certificate program again if the demand is strong, Hudsick said. This first class is limited to 15 students, so BTC will look at the number who register before announcing future classes.

Registration for this class opens on June 4 but preregistration is available. More details can be found at www.btc.edu/register. The cost for the class is $1,375 and includes a basic toolkit. Limited scholarships are available through the BIAWC, email elliots@biawc.com for more scholarship information.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz
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