Home Builders Institute

“Help us help you” might be an apt message of Home Builders Institute. The organization seeks to reach out to the multifamily industry to place graduates of its educational and training programs in employment opportunities throughout the country.

John Courson

By Keat Foong, Executive Editor

Washington, D.C.—“Help us help you” might be an apt message of Home Builders Institute (HBI). The organization seeks to reach out to the multifamily industry to place graduates of its educational and training programs in employment opportunities throughout the country.

HBI’s local placement coordinators work with builders, developers and even property management companies to “let them know we have a supply of workers available,” says John Courson, HBI president and CEO. “We would love to be contacted.”

Under its Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) and Job Corps programs, HBI provides industry-validated training  in any of seven trades: masonry, carpentry, painting, electrical, plumbing, landscaping and facilities maintenance. Graduates are trained to the pre-apprenticeship level in each of the specialties. Of particular interest to apartment companies, points out Courson, are the graduates of the facilities maintenance educational program, who are being placed, for example, as assistants to building superintendents.

HBI is the non-profit workforce development affiliate of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). It is “dedicated to the advancement and enrichment of education and training programs serving the needs of the housing industry.” The 40-year-old organization has 275 employees—including full-time instructors, placement coordinators and administration staff‑and it sponsors 135 locations throughout 43 states.

The job placements rate for HBI’s student body, which currently totals approximately 6,000, is about 80 percent, though Courson says he would like to increase this rate to an ambitious 90 percent this year. Students include at-risk youth who were referred by social workers or guidance counselors; displaced workers; as well as returning veterans. Additionally, candidates may simply be youth and adults applying directly to the HBI programs.

HBI is currently seeking to diversify the sources of its funding to a certain extent, notes Steve Kramer, vice president of HBI’s Residential Construction Academy. Most of HBI’s annual budget, which Courson says is about $30 million, is attributed to contracts with the federal and state government. For example, HBI receives funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to run the Job Corps program. And with the benefit of FEMA funding, the institute set up a job training site to supply workers in the aftermath of Katrina. Another contract comes from the Department of Justice. For the future, HBI is also looking to the private sector, such as foundations or building suppliers, as a partner for financing worker training initiatives, explains Courson.

Despite the stagnant U.S. employment market, there are employment opportunities for HBI graduates in the multifamily sector. Courson points out that NAHB is projecting a 17 percent increase in multifamily starts this year to an annual rate of 208,000 units, and that surveys show a growing interest among builders to hire more workers this year.

Courson suggests that the skill requirements, skill assessments and certification of HBI’s programs are developed according to the National Skills Standards. Additionally, students are trained in green standards, which make them very desirable for many employers. In short, Courson and Kramer assert, employers know that HBI-certified workers are qualified for the job.