College gets federal funds for skilled trade classes

$287,000 to expand classes to train workers

By ALAN BRODY, Staff writer

In tough economic times, trade workers are always in high demand.

That's a good thing for the College of Southern Maryland, which on Monday received a $287,000 federal grant for a program that aims to bolster the construction and transportation workforce.

‘‘The demand in this area is explosive," said college President Bradley M. Gottfried. Carpenters, electricians and other home building trades comprise one of the fastest-growing employment sectors in the country, he said.

And as the region's population continues to soar, the shortage may widen. In response, CSM has tripled the number of courses it offers in trades and expects to develop new classes to meet the future demand.

The money, presented by U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, will be used for the college's Partnership for the Advancement of Construction and Transportation Training program. The construction trades curriculum includes a unique 10-week ‘‘boot camp" that prepares students for apprenticeships in carpentry, heating, ventilating and air conditioning and electrical work.

Federal investment in workforce development programs is wise, said Hoyer (D-Md., 5th). ‘‘We are investing in a better future and the enterprise and talents of so many people who will turn this [$287,000] literally into millions and millions of dollars."

With the money in hand, Gottfried said the college's challenge is to make the best use of it. ‘‘This was the easy part," he told a small crowd of mostly college employees. ‘‘The hard part is you putting it into action."

That's where construction management instructor James Davis comes in. ‘‘We're not going to outsource those professions," said Davis, who runs a construction trade firm. ‘‘They're going to stay in this country."

One of Davis' students said his first-hand experience is invaluable.

‘‘It's one thing to teach a class, but he's lived it," Lloyd Staggs said.

College officials will work with local labor groups and North Point High School to recruit candidates for the trades program, Gottfried said.

For Hoyer, the federal support is a no-brainer.

‘‘This is an opportunity for us to have better trained, more skilled more employable people," he said. ‘‘This is an investment that will make our community better."