Workers to Be Trained to Help Rebuild New Orleans
Through "Operation Reconstruct," HBI is helping launch training for unemployed or underemployed New Orleans residents to assist in the city's rebuilding efforts.
With large-scale rebuilding efforts from Hurricane Katrina only now beginning to take shape, Home Builders Institute (HBI), the workforce development arm of NAHB, is joining forces with several organizations to address a shortage of construction labor in some of the most devastated areas of the Gulf Coast.
With $125,000 from NAHB’s Home Building Industry Disaster Relief Fund and $25,000 from Fannie Mae, HBI has been spearheading efforts to launch “Operation Reconstruct,” a 12-week course that will train unemployed or underemployed New Orleans residents to assist in the city’s rebuilding efforts.
The program draws on HBI’s long history and far-reaching experience in training people in the construction trades and is being customized to the special needs of New Orleans and its surrounding community. The Paxen Group, Inc., a program design and management firm based in Melbourne, Fla., will provide case administration, soft skills training and supportive services.
“It’s imperative to the recovery of southern Louisiana that skilled workers are in the area and prepared to contribute to the massive rebuilding that the community is facing,” said Bobby Rayburn, an NAHB past president and a home builder from Jackson, Miss. who is heading up NAHB’s hurricane relief efforts. “I’m proud to be a part of an effort that is trying to make that happen.”
The Home Builders Association (HBA) of Greater New Orleans and the Louisiana HBA have been key in getting Operation Reconstruct off the ground. “You cannot imagine how much we need this program down here,” said Toni Wendell, president of the New Orleans association. “It is a good start. Much more is needed to bring this community back, literally. There have to be homes for people to live before they can return and that’s what this program will help do.”
The HBAs have fostered local collaboration with the creators of the new training program, including outreach to workforce investment boards (WIB) and the Region 1 Workforce Partnership, which is comprised of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, St. John, St. James and St. Charles parishes. The Region 1 Partnership is providing $410,000 in National Emergency Grants funding to Operation Reconstruct.
Another critical partner in the HBI effort, the New Orleans affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International will be providing on-site training for Operation Reconstruct students when it builds 81 homes in Musicians’ Village in the city’s Upper Ninth Ward.
Marty Kooistra, vice president of collaborations and strategic partnerships for Habitat for Humanity, noted that it will take a great deal of creativity to respond to the “immense” social needs left in the aftermath of last year’s hurricane. He added that his organization’s collaboration with Operation Reconstruct to rebuild the city’s housing represents “a strategic alliance” and “the best of our respective missions.”
Other organizations participating in the training effort include: Jefferson Parish Public Schools, the Archdiocese of New Orleans/Catholic Charities, Southeastern Louisiana University, the Hispanic Business and Resource Technology Center, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, Café Reconcile and the Louisiana Association for Nonprofit Organizations.
“With a crisis of this magnitude, comprehensive and innovative solutions are the only way to achieve our goals of rebuilding,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). “Operation Reconstruct captures the passion of home builders, educators, business, faith and volunteer organizations and the local community by inspiring the feelings of hope and empowerment. It is exactly what we need to help us meet and overcome this challenge.”
Operation Reconstruct will welcome its first students next month.
For more information on Operation Reconstruct, e-mail Dennis Torbett at HBI, or call him at 800-795-7955 x8908.