Creating the Next Generation of Tradespeople

If you’ve tried to hire a general contractor, plumber, carpenter, roofer, electrician or laborer recently, you know how hard it can be. You can wait weeks or even months to schedule a repair or renovation, and longer if you want to build from scratch.

For years, we’ve had a shortage of tradespeople in our area, and recent wildfires have only increased the demand for their services. To address the issue, last year a group of educators, community members and local construction professionals got together to create a program to encourage high school seniors to pursue a career in the building trades. It’s called the Mendocino County Construction Corps (MCCC).

Not only do I love the idea of local young men and women financially supporting themselves with good-paying careers in the trades, I look forward to having enough electricians in town so there’s someone I can call to get the lights back on when resetting the circuit breaker doesn’t work.

Right now, although we have people who specialize in building custom homes, we do not have enough skilled laborers and subcontractors to build production housing (new housing developments). And production housing is what we need if we’re to have any hope of keeping up with the demand for more housing.

The new construction program won’t create enough skilled labor overnight, but it will. They can grow from there.

MCCC is a collaborative program managed through Ukiah Unified School District’s Career Technical Education (CTE) department; it’s what we used to call vocational training. CTE Coordinator Eric Crawford deserves a lot of credit for bringing MCCC to Mendocino County. After being inspired by a similar program in Sonoma County last year, he pulled together a steering committee and raised the funds needed to provide 14 weeks of education for the 23 students who were chosen through a rigorous selection process. This year, MCCC is part of a five-county consortium called the North Bay Construction Corps, which includes Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, Marin, and Lake counties.

The program includes evening classes once a week and four all-day Saturday classes on subjects like power tools, reading blueprints, construction safety, first aid/CPR, framing, roofing, solar, plumbing, concrete, electrical, construction math and more. Students also learn to drive a forklift and other heavy machinery. Mendocino College provides 1.5 class units as well as insurance, essential to the success of the program.

Last year, 17 students completed the program. Three of them stayed in the area to begin working in construction and six of them went to college, mostly to pursue construction-related studies like architecture, civil engineering and construction management. The rest either continued with their existing employer or went a different direction. This year, 27 students are enrolled in the program and we’re hoping many of them will start working in the trades when they finish.

Once students complete the coursework and hands-on training, they participate in a two-week boot camp where they help build houses in partnership with the Hope Crisis Response Network. At the end, they receive a $750 stipend and a tool belt with tools to get them started.

Most of the funds to pay for MCCC came from local contractors, and some of those same contractors have also volunteered to teach the classes, including Bill Christensen, folks from Granite Construction, Jen Riddell, Wendy Jackson and Sandy Steely.

Major donors (donating $2,000 or more) include AGC of California, Crane of Ukiah, Dorn Construction, Friedman Brothers, Granite Construction, and Guillion Construction. Other donors include Charles Schwab, Christensen Construction, Factory Pipe, John McCowen, Mendo Mill, Menton Builders, North Coast Builders Exchange, Ukiah South Rotary, and yours truly (Realty World Selzer Realty).

After the boot camp, local contractors have the opportunity to hire MCCC graduates. If you’re interested in learning more about this program, visit

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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