Inside an unassuming warehouse on the outskirts of Denver, 18 students are learning to saw, tile, drill, plaster and paint.
They are mastering how to build a house. While that number might not sound like a lot, today's homebuilders are desperate for all of them.
The students are some of the first to enroll in an eight-week "boot camp" at the Colorado Homebuilding Academy, a nonprofit organization that opened this year. The course is free, founded and funded by Oakwood Homes, a Denver-based homebuilder.
"Every single year the labor situation has basically gotten worse," said Patrick Hamill, CEO of Oakwood. "People retire, and there's nobody to replace them, and as an industry, ultimately we've just done a lousy job marketing our opportunities to young people."
So Oakwood, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, started a foundation to fund the academy and donates $1,000 for every house it closes. This year, Oakwood expects to close on 1,356 homes. In its first year, the program will run 11 boot camps, training approximately 200 workers. Next year, company officials hope to double that.
"Trade associations are involved, other homebuilders are involved, because we all know if we don't do this, we're not going to have a labor force to meet the needs of our industry," said Hamill.