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D.C. Dads Take Up The Mantel To Address Construction Labor Shortage

CARP Instructor and EAS Carpenters Local Union 197 member Wendy Douglas (right) teaches soft skills to a pre-apprentice at the Carpenters Union Mid-Atlantic Training Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

The D.C. area has been experiencing an uptick in construction projects, with building and redevelopment occurring throughout the District. Construction in the multifamily sector specifically has been on the rise, as the District is anticipating 66% more apartment units throughout the next year.

The construction industry has faced a shortage of skilled, reliable workers since long before the pandemic, but it was exacerbated by the events of the last two years. With these promising developments in D.C. comes the need to find ways to combat the shortage, like helping residents access job opportunities in union carpentry. 

Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters has been taking steps to ensure that prospective union carpenters have the resources and skills training they need to take on any project. EAS has been working in various regions throughout the Mid-Atlantic, including Washington, D.C., to train people for a carpentry apprenticeship through its Carpenter Apprentice Ready Program. The eight-week-long pre-apprenticeship program provides math education and job-specific skills training to set aspiring carpenters up for success.

Robert Eaton, training director for EAS’ DMV-based training program, the mid-Atlantic Carpenters Training Centers Fund, said carpenters learn hammering, measuring, cutting and other woodshop skills in the program, as well as interview skills to prepare for their apprenticeship.

“Large carpentry jobs are highly competitive, so union carpenters need to be educated in the field as well as be highly productive and dependable,” Eaton said. “What’s unique about CARP is that we provide a competitive edge. We train local residents from D.C., Northern Virginia and the surrounding suburbs to compete for these larger jobs.”

Eaton said that many large construction projects are happening in D.C.; however, many of the carpentry jobs have been taken by workers coming in from out of state. He said his training program provides local workers with the right tools and training to contribute to their community.

“If I’m building something in my neighborhood, I’m going to take extreme pride in it,” Eaton said. “I’m going to want to tell my kids and grandkids that I helped build something for them.”

Fathers are among the demographic of D.C. residents that the CARP program has been working to help. EAS has partnered with the D.C.- based Capital Youth Empowerment Program, which helps provide work experience for teenagers and young adults, which includes fathers who are supporting their families and who are pursuing a carpentry career. 

CYEP Director of Workforce Development Reggie Morris said that each cohort recruits 15 to 20 fathers. CYEP helps with the application and onboarding process and provides career coaching while participants are going through the CARP program.

“Through this partnership, we are cutting through some of the red tape that participants would ordinarily have to cut through themselves, so that they can go through the process and have the resources they need to succeed,” Morris said. “It gives our clients a hands-on learning opportunity and the ability to work in a professional setting.”

Jalen Ford, one of CARP’s graduates, knew he wanted a career in carpentry and real estate, and found out about CARP through one of CYEP’s initiatives called Fathers in Tech.

“Among the things I liked learning most include hanging drywall, metal framing and other aspects of projects that CARP was working on,” Ford said. “I like working with my hands, so the program was a lot of fun for me.”

Ford completed the program in 2021 and is planning to join the union’s free four-year apprenticeship program to learn more skills, while saving money to one day invest in his own carpentry business.

Morris said that CARP program participants such as Ford are excellent examples of the capacity of this type of partnership, and how it can benefit the D.C. community.

“I like the model of CARP and I’ve seen the successes it can have,” Morris said. “Education is key when it comes to the workforce, so I know that the promise of what our programs can do in D.C. is something that’s really special.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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