July 2014

Training the Next Generation of Green Builders


Jeff Hood and Devon Ludlow


Picture for a moment a young man, 17 or 18, with a few tattoos, baggy pants and a ball cap to the side. To his left sits a smartly dressed, middle-aged man. The older man checks his watch. Then, the young man’s parents walk in, and they’ve brought appetizers. This is a potluck in honor of the young man and his peers, students at Santa Fe Community College’s YouthBuild program. As they eat, the young man and his peers talk excitedly with parents and teachers about what they’re learning—the latest building techniques, R-values for walls, and job prospects in the fast-growing green building industry. Appetizers aside, what’s really happening is that parents, faculty and students are building bonds, paving the way for the future success of this young man and his classmates.


Fueled by a Department of Labor grant, YouthBuild combines SFCC’s Adult Education-GED program, Green Construction Skills certification program and Teamwork in Action Leadership training program. YouthBuild students can earn a GED while studying green construction skills using computer-aided drafting and modeling, then work with faculty to find and keep jobs or move on to more advanced education. The program also offers financial support for food and transportation. For their part, students commit to a one-year, full-time program, five days a week. Their days are divided between academics and hands-on practice, building a sustainable house on campus that will be moved and sold to a low-income family in Santa Fe. Students learn a lexicon of cutting-edge building skills and technology, from advanced framing and envelope integrity to passive solar and high-efficiency heating and cooling.


It’s much more than construction, though. These students are learning teamwork, problem solving, trust and patience. They’re also building camaraderie, confidence and a new philosophy because when you study green building you’re studying green living. YouthBuild students come from every kind of background, and SFCC faculty members work with students and their parents to help build the crucial “soft” social skills, challenging students to broaden their horizons. And students rise to the challenge, becoming bright, creative and career-ready young adults.


In the end, these students will learn not just the techniques; they will learn more about themselves, that they have valuable skills to offer the world. YouthBuild shows that a little time and trust can go a long way. Students leave behind old patterns and look forward to bigger goals and brighter dreams. So, look for them on the job; they’ll be the ones with a firm handshake ready to face any task, learn any skill, and to share with you all that they’ve learned.


In addition to YouthBuild, SFCC offers an associate in Applied Science and a certificate in Green Building Construction, as well as training through its Energy$mart Academy and Continuing Education programs. For more information, call 505.428.1270 or visit sfcc.edu





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