Editorial: Education plays role in housing shortage

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Countless think tanks, governnment officials and industry representatives are wringing their hands over the cost of housing in California.Politicians point to the lack of affordable housing as one of the reasons for homelessness.

There is no arguing that California housing prices have soared. Blame has been placed on zoning, environmental restrictions, material costs and land availability. All those are factors, but there’s another that really isn’t being acknowledged. Our education system.

California educators from the state on down have failed to step up to expanding education in the trade skills. This includes construction.While career and technical training is the new trend, few institutions actually teach how to build a house.

Trying to explain the lack of support, educators point to higher incomes in other industries, the lack of high school teachers to motivate interest, expensive equipment, and subsequently the lack of — should we say — energetic students.

One study notes that students don’t want to work that hard, and we can believe that. Who would in the California summer — the prime time for construction?

Perhaps that’s why there are fewer farmers, fewer roofers, fewer heavy equipment operators.Yet other countries suffering with hot climates don’t seem to have that problem.

For years, education leaders in California dragged their feet about promoting hand skills and craft trades. There was a turn-around in philosophy a few years ago, when career and technical education became a hot topic. Some advances have been made, but they are limited in scope.

In the last two years, Butte County Office of Education, local builders and Valley Contractors Exchange produced short, fast-track courses to encourage construction skills. The classes were filled, and nearly all the graduates found spots with local construction companies. That kind of program works here, so why isn’t it in our schools?

We started hearing the seriousness of the situation last year, when construction workers in Butte County were headed to post-fire Napa and Sonoma counties for the higher paying jobs on higher costing houses. We even heard it from Butte County victims trying to rebuild, but unable to find contractors despite what they were willing to pay.

There was a shortage of hand trades before the fires. Not much can help the current situation, like survivors of the Carr Fire who want to start afresh. But maybe this is a place to begin. We hope those conversations are occurring in education circles.

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