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Workforce Under Construction Part 7: Private Organizations: CEFA and NACTF



The Construction Education Foundation of Alabama (CEFA) was created in 2001 by three construction associations (ABC of Alabama, AGC and the Alabama Concrete Industry Association) to provide quality, craft-specific standardized training to individuals entering or working in the construction industry to address the industry’s concern of a future trained workforce. “CEFA is the successful evolution of the training programs that had been offered by each organization, which means there is a 35-year history of training workers,” said CEFA Director Byron McCain.

CEFA operates the largest merit shop registered apprenticeship program in the state with training in carpentry, electrical, HVAC, pipefitting, plumbing, sheet metal and welding. The organization implemented craft training in 2009 for students who do not have a job in the trade at the inception of training. Craft training students, who are in the same class as registered apprentices and must pass all test and performance evaluations just like a registered apprentice, participate in 300 hours of craft training, which includes two levels of NCCER-based training that covers a 58-week period. “This program has trimmed training costs, especially for electrical contractors, in some cases by 40 percent,” McCain said. “Employers can hire a new employee who sat in the same class as their current employees.”

CEFA also offers task-based training in two formats, topic specific (which focuses on a topic selected by a contractor) and selective module training (which lets a contractor select specific modules of existing training for employee participation).

To attract and encourage more students to consider a career in the construction industry, CEFA provides scholarships to students and veterans and offers a high school dual enrollment option. In the past four years, CEFA has maintained an average of 200-plus students in training. “We have created a small pool of people with basic training that contractors can hire,” McCain said. “These students have industry training and can go out into the workplace and be effective the very first day of work.”

For job applicants who aren’t quite ready for the job, CEFA is ready to help. Said McCain, “If someone that is showing interest in working in the industry is not qualified or needs more training, refer them to us so that we can train them and help them find an employer.”

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The North Alabama Craft Training Foundation (NACTF) offers an apprenticeship craft training program that works to provide a quality workforce in various crafts relating to the industry, including carpentry, electrical pipefitting, plumbing and sheet metal. The organization’s four-year program includes 144 classroom instruction and on-the-job training hours. Student must be employed in their field of training to obtain the on-the-job training hours, and classes are held once a week. “With this program, students have so much to gain,” said NACTF Administrator Wade Thompson. “All they have to do is show up and work every day and in four years they can be certified in their field. It’s a no brainer.”

In addition, NACTF visits schools to educate kids about careers in construction. With the help of the ABC of Alabama Workforce Development Committee, the organization works with local schools to help with high school career tech programs and provide materials needed for classes when possible. “Any ABC member could help with this with just a phone call to the school,” Thompson said. “I would encourage any ABC member to get in tune with what’s going on in their area with the local schools. Contact them and see if there is a need for a particular skilled trade to speak to board members.”

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