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DES MOINES, Iowa — There’s less than a month until classes restart at Central Campus in Des Moines and work is happening furiously to get a popular part of the building finished.

“This is a brand new state of the art welding facility,” said Aiddy Phomvisay, Director Central Campus.

Central Campus’ Skills Trade Academy is undergoing a $6 million upgrade that includes 25 welding stations and a new collision repair center.  It couldn’t come at a better time.  Over the last two years the school has seen enrollment in the program double.

“So many of our students want to be involved in these programs. They know once they are in a program and aligned with a business and a partner they can be employable,” said Phomvisay.

The program teaches these students job skills in many blue-collar fields, like construction, welding and electrical work. Phomvisay says popularity of the program is growing, as an increasing number of students are looking for careers that won’t leave them a buried in student loans.

“That is not the case in the skilled trades and academy programs. These jobs are waiting to be filled and so we need to provide these alternatives for our students,” said Phomvisay.

Zach Hageman took advantage of the Skills Program. He was there for four years and tried everything that was offered.  He says if it wasn’t for that program his careers prospects would be much different.  “Just working a minimum wage job. The home building program bumped that up for me. Where I can do what I want in life. It helps me in the long run,” said Hageman.

Workers with Hageman’s skill set are in high demand.  Local construction companies are struggling to find skilled workers. Right now, the unemployment rate in the construction industry is two-percent.  That’s half of the national average.