A forklift, some saw stations, and an unfinished wood frame house fill the classroom at the Home Builders Institute building on Fort Stewart military base in Georgia. Inside, 15 men and women in hard hats and steel toe boots maneuvered the bare-bones structure of a wall switch.
“We’re wiring up a receptacle that is constant hot and also controlled by a single-pole switch,” said Tony Dyke, with a drill in hand.
“It was a little confusing in the beginning when we first started learning. But after, you know, going through a couple classes and everything, it comes along almost naturally,” Dyke said.
By the end of this 12-week apprenticeship, Dyke and his classmates will be able to use the Pythagorean theorem to find the height of a ceiling and measure tile. They will be able to tell the difference between a lag screw and an electrogalvanized nail — skills that will give them a chance to earn a least $17.61 an hour in the residential construction sector.
Dyke, though, is hoping to earn more, after three and a half years driving a tank.
“It doesn’t really transition well to the civilian world. You know, there’s no tanks in the civilian world,” he laughed.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 196,000 vacant construction jobs across the country. In a survey last year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that more than two-thirds of small contractors in residential construction are having difficulty finding skilled workers.