How Housing Worx offers a solution to shortages of construction labor, affordable housing

Allegan County, like many communities, is dealing with both a shortage of affordable housing and a labor shortage. Housing Workx addresses both through a program that provides hands-on training in the construction trades while building a house for low-income residents.

“Basically, the thrust of the program was that we were going to address education, employment, and housing, all in one program,” says Lisa Evans, executive director of Community Action of Allegan County, a role she’s had since 2013. “We know that there are not enough individuals in the building trades industry to support the incredible need that we have for housing in our community and in our state or nationally. We’re in a housing crisis.”

The program provides participants with career opportunities in building trades and construction, one of the fastest growing industries in Michigan, so they can produce attainable housing in Allegan County. Participants receive Department of Labor-recognized certified training developed by the Home Builders Institute. 

Learn skills in variety of trades

Students build energy-efficient homes or remodel existing homes to make them more livable.

They have the opportunity to earn pre-apprenticeship construction training (PACT) in eight skilled trades: weatherization, carpentry, maintenance, plumbing, masonry, electrical, landscaping, and painting. 

The course includes direct instruction, online learning, and all necessary tools and materials. Multiple certifications can be earned, including Construction CORE, Carpentry, and OSHA 10 Construction.

This credential is accepted by the Department of Labor and allows for entry-level employment as a construction laborer. Through partnerships with the local home building industry and Michigan Works!, Community Action of Allegan County helps graduates find employment and support services. They will have the opportunity to earn up to $15.80 an hour upon program completion. 

Darrell Oakley, CAAC’s Deputy Director Housing & Community Services, is recruiting students for a cohort that will begin this winter.

“We're working on expanding the curriculum and certifications,” says Oakley.

According to Michigan Works!, the number of positions in construction will increase by more than 5% through 2022. Michigan lost 48% of its skilled trades workforce over the last decade, which means roughly 60,000 workers left the industry without replacements, creating numerous opportunities for entry-level and skilled individuals.

The cost for the training is $650, but scholarships are available for individuals who need assistance. A new program is expected to launch this winter with students attending classes two evenings a week. 

Network of partners

Program partners include the Michigan Career & Technical Institute, Allegan Area ESA, West Michigan Works!, PACT, and Skilled to Build.

“The strong network of education and workforce development partnerships in Allegan County enriches our collective work to support the unique needs of each job seeker," says Angie Barksdale, CEO of West Michigan Works!. "Through our partnership with Housing Workx!, we are collectively nurturing future professionals within our community and cultivating a skilled, confident and well-prepared workforce. This collaborative endeavor paves the way for individual success and propels employers forward, bolstering our regional construction industry.”
West Michigan Works! refers job seekers interested in construction trades to the Housing Workx! Program. Plus, West Michigan Works! supports Housing Workx! graduates with job applications, interviews and resume preparation, and connects them with employers offering competitive salaries and benefits.

The program began in 2008 as the Dual Community Development Program. The program, which became dormant during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been relaunched as Housing Workx.

“In the midst of first setting up that program, we also purchased a church that we renovated as the training center,” Evans says. It will be used not only for the pre-apprenticeship certification training, but training in weatherization of housing, energy savings for low-income families, and minor home repairs.

The goal is to increase the amount of learning and workshop capabilities for the community, adds Oakley.

To sign up or learn more about Housing Workx, visit or call at 269-673-5472, ext 228.

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.