The Brees Dream Foundation announced the launch of a new educational facility in Kenner, Louisiana for training Louisianans in the skilled trades for construction. The BuildStrong Academy of Greater New Orleans will provide its training programs at no cost to students. Citing the severe labor shortage here and throughout the country, officials said the purpose of the academy is to teach construction trade skills to anyone seeking a new career path and place them into well-paying jobs.

The foundation, established by former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, has funded the academy’s construction and operation in partnership with the BuildStrong Foundation, the Home Builders Institute (HBI) and Franchise for Good. Franchise for Good is the nonprofit arm of Franworth, a private Michigan-based firm that scales emerging brands via franchising. HBI is the nation’s leading nonprofit provider of trade skills training and education in residential construction.

“Working with our partners, we will grow Louisiana’s construction industry and skilled labor force,” said Brees at the BuildStrong Academy’s grand opening. “We will help create career opportunities for thousands of Louisianans through first-rate skills training and job placement.”

The academy will use HBI’s curriculum designed to transform students with no trade skills into trained, pre-apprentices sought-after by builders. All graduates earn industry-recognized credentials following six weeks of basic training and six additional weeks of training in a specific trade. Not only will students learn construction skills, they also will be exposed to different forms of trade work, and gain OSHA-10 safety certification, career counseling, job-placement support, and networking opportunities with top industry employers. HBI’s training curriculum is developed in conjunction with members of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The school in Kenner is part of a nationwide expansion announced last month by the BuildStrong Academy, a construction workforce development initiative created by Pat Hamill, CEO of Denver, CO-based Oakwood Homes. Its original training facility in Denver, CO has graduated more than 1,200 students since opening in 2020. The first new BuildStrong Academy chapter opened in Orlando, Florida in June 2021. Over the next two years, BuildStrong Academy, HBI and Franchise for Good will launch local chapters nationwide, including academies in Charlotte, North Carolina, Houston, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona.

The need is substantial. NAHB reported 380,000 open positions in construction at the beginning of 2022, up from 299,000 a year ago. According to the trade association’s chief economist, Robert Dietz, Louisiana was short almost 6,000 construction workers as of January. In a recent study, HBI reported that to keep pace with anticipated housing demand, home builders nationwide need 740,000 new workers each year for the next three years.

The BuildStrong Academy of Greater New Orleans expects to serve 200 to 400 students in its first year. “By leveraging scaling methods traditionally used in growing for-profit franchises, our academy in Kenner will have the capacity to train 1,000 students per year,” said Franchise for Good founder Dave Keil. 

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