Diego Reyes is just 15 years old, but he’s already training for a job in the booming construction industry.
Texas is running out of workers, especially construction workers. And Diego knows it.
“The younger you start, the better you get at something,” said Diego, a sophomore at Skyline High School who takes shop class.
The Texas unemployment rate stood at 3.7 percent for November, matching the national rate. That’s the lowest Texas rate since record-keeping began more than four decades ago. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it’s 3.2 percent. In 12 U.S. states, unemployment is at 3 percent or lower.
America needs workers, and it’s an open secret where many who labor in the construction industry can be found: Plenty of immigrants without proper work permits are building and rebuilding the state and the nation.
But President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown has hit building trades hard. And Congress has not passed any legalization program for unauthorized foreign workers or expanded existing visa programs.
That’s why they’re bolstering shop classes in high schools and community colleges to attract more native-born workers and legal immigrants to the construction trades.
“We are telling them success isn’t defined by getting a four-year degree right out of high school,” Crone said. “The construction trades are a great way to make a career here. We are trying to turn the tide.”
So is Doug Palmer, the shop class instructor at Skyline. A few years ago, Palmer was hired to bring back shop class. He had to build up tools, from pliers to plywood, Allen wrenches to miter saws.