Warren Construction Careers Academy students build tiny House

Innovative Program Helps Address Skilled Labor Shortage

Terry SwensonEducation, Featured, Member News, Workforce Development, Young Professionals

Warren Construction Careers Academy students

Students of the Construction Careers Academy (CCA) in San Antonio

Generations of skilled laborers have been the backbone of the construction industry, and no one will argue that time and circumstance have taken a toll on this invaluable pool of resources. Helping to solve this growing problem will take creativity and tenacity and a willingness to invest in new ideas.

“It’s impossible not to get excited after a visit to Warren’s CCA campus. We are eager to bring together school districts and builders to partner these programs locally.”Don Klein, President of GHBA and Chesmar Homes

One approach to this solution was launched in 2009 in the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas. A comprehensive program called Construction Careers Academy (CCA), works in partnership with Warren High School and is located as a separate facility on the Warren campus.


Warren Construction Careers Academy studentsCCA prepares students for careers in the construction industry and is designed for students planning to attend a four-year university, a two-year associate degree program, or those wishing to enter the workforce upon high school graduation. Currently there are nearly 500 students that make up CCA, making it one of the nation’s largest construction programs at a secondary level.

CCA offers an advanced and rigorous curriculum and practical training for students beginning in the 9th grade, in one of four core strands: Construction Management, Architectural Design, Applied Engineering, and Construction Technology.

Careers Post High School

The Construction Technology strand offers training for students in these disciplines: Plumbing, Electrical, Welding, Pipe Fitting, and HVAC A/C & Heating.

College Readiness

CCA students can earn up to 31 hours of college credit toward their degree and/or trade certification. The College Readiness strands prepare them for a post-secondary education and careers in:

  • Architecture and Design (Provides entry-level skills including AutoCad)
  • Applied Engineering (Civil and Structural Engineering)
  • Construction Management
Credentials and Certifications

Students earn certifications and credentials by completing a practicum (Capstone Project) and by taking part in internships and shadowing programs. These students receive:

  • OSHA 10-hour certification
  • NCCER Core and Level 1 certifications
  • Fire extinguisher, CPR, and First Aid certifications
  • Equipment certificates
  • Autodesk certification

Warren Construction Careers Academy studentsThe CCA students are taught by instructors who have come from the workforce, some retired, others who own their own companies and make time to instruct in their field. Students work in classrooms and specially outfitted stations for hands-on learning.

Many students are hired during the summers or off periods by local builders, contractors and architects that help further their experience.

Admission to CCA is based on career interest, satisfactory attendance, conduct, standardized test scores and at least a C average in core subjects (English, math, science, and social studies) in middle school. Students meeting these criteria are admitted to a lottery pool.

There are several forms of funding that have helped grow the CCA that include multiple grants and donations. CCA has attracted the attention of major corporate sponsors including Home Depot, Lowe’s and HEB. Materials and tools are donated by LP Building Products, Ferguson and Gibson Plumbing.

Tiny House Showcase Build
Warren Construction Careers Academy students build tiny House

CCA students build tiny house for 2018 showcase

The Tiny House Showcase Build Competition is another method for raising funds, one that has become a hallmark event for the students and the program. Students comprised of engineers, architects, construction managers, plumbers, carpenters, HVAC and electricians will work together to build three tiny homes at 224 sq. ft. They will contribute to the competition based on skills learned in class.

This is the fifth year for the competition with this year’s theme focusing on “modern country.” Students are challenged to work together to design, engineer and construct a fully functional tiny house with an indoor/outdoor living component. Students design the homes, rough in the plumbing, air conditioning/heating, solar power, electrical, framing and complete the finish out of each home.

The competition provides real world experience as they apply what they are learning and demonstrate mastery of their skills. Each home is issued a Certificate of Completion by the City of San Antonio, with the students being responsible for making application.

The highlight of Tiny House Showcase is a public event on a weekend, and then the homes are judged and auctioned off, with offers ranging in the $50,000 – $60,000 range. Tiny Home fans from all over the country visit the CCA throughout the year to preview the homes prior to auction.

“The Tiny House Showcase Build, a senior level project, offers not only practical training, but also gives these students confidence and pride in sharing what they have learned with others,” said Audrey Ethridge, CCA program coordinator. “Students utilize every facet of what they’ve learned as they build these tiny homes that will ultimately be sold to the public. It is rewarding to see how much they apply themselves and how much they learn from this unique experience.”

After graduating from the program, students who are not attending college go into the Job Placement Program where they are entered in the CCA Job Placement Databank. CCA graduates will be a step ahead of the competition and they are highly sought after by businesses of all sizes and disciplines.

Houston Area Efforts

GHBA is reaching out to local school districts to explore technical training in the residential construction trades. Currently the leadership from the New Caney Independent School District has made two trips to Warren High School to learn from the leadership at CCA. They are extremely interested in partnering with local builders to begin their own program. We are also in the process of reaching out to other ISDs in the Houston area.

“It’s impossible not to get excited after a visit to Warren’s CCA campus. We are eager to bring together school districts and builders to partner these programs locally,” said Don Klein, president of GHBA and Chesmar Homes.

The GHBA is currently partnering with the Home Building Institute (HBI) whose mission is training young people in the construction trades. HBI is opening a training facility in Houston in June and will focus on carpentry and framing. The HBI will get students in the 18-24 year old range from the Texas Workforce Commission. The course will run from six to eight weeks and graduates will be able to hire onto a framing crew. The HBI training center is a two-year commitment from HBI and is staffed with a full time supervisor and a full time trainer.

“We are very hopeful these two areas of focus will be long term and bring many new people into our business,” Don concluded.


About the Author

Terry Swenson


A writer and a photographer, Terry Swenson is GHBA's director of public relations.