Construction trades school to open in Latonia

The Enzweiler Building Institute (EBI) teaches a variety of skilled construction trades. (Photo courtesy of the EBI)

With demand for jobs high, shopping center to become workforce hub

COVINGTON, Ky. – A new school that teaches construction trades will open next year in Latonia.

The first classes at what the Building Industry Association of Northern Kentucky is calling “the Covington Campus” of its Enzweiler Building Institute are scheduled to begin in September 2022, with initial programs focused on carpentry, welding, electricity, HVAC, plumbing, and an Intro to Trades program for high school students.

With 25 percent of the spots in any given class reserved for Covington residents and/or students, officials from the City and the Building Industry Association (BIA) say the school will address four major goals:

  • It will “skill up” Covington’s workforce and target chronic underemployment.
  • It will improve urban core residents’ accessibility to skills training offered by the Enzweiler Building Institute (EBI), whose current campus is in Erlanger.
  • It will help the construction industry fill a critical need for skilled workers that is estimated at 1 million jobs over the next two years.
  • And it will continue the transformation of the Latonia Plaza shopping center, further activating and bringing energy to the long-stagnant strip center along Winston Highway.

The EBI plans to lease 8,000 square feet of space last occupied by Check Exchange and Rent to Own from Latonia Commerce LLC, the group of investors who bought the plaza earlier this year. (The plaza is the strip center adjacent to and north of the former Value City and Burlington Coat Factory big box stores.)

Tuesday night, the Covington Board of Commissioners approved financial support for the school of $200,000 spread over five years, with $60,000 to be awarded in the first year. The money will come from a fund set up to spur economic activity in the city.

City Economic Development Director Tom West said the project was founded on expanding workforce development.

“For several years we have seen the number of skilled workers in the construction trades drop while demand was increasing,” West said. “Investment in this program demonstrates how important it is for Covington residents to develop the skills needed to both improve their future and fuel the economic momentum that will continue through the decade or so as we build out Covington’s Central Riverfront.”

EBI officials said that with Covington’s support established, they are working to finalize the lease for the $1.22 million campus. They are also applying for funds from the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board and have begun a capital funding campaign is underway to cover any gap in funding. Recruitment of instructors is also underway.

The Associated Builders and Contractors, a national trade organization, estimates the industry will need to hire 430,000 workers in the next year to keep up with demand and 1 million workers over two years.

“The efforts we undertake to deliver skilled construction tradespeople will benefit immensely from the new campus, access to public transit, and proximity to our urban core,” said Brian Miller, Executive Vice President of the BIA of Northern Kentucky. “Neighboring public and parochial high schools are paramount in our ability to attract and retain younger students and help them to onboard into a wonderful career with real livable wage potential in the construction trades.”

About the school

  • Estimated opening: September 2022.
  • Enrollment: Applications will be available online at Interested parties can also contact Dr. Vicki Berling at (859) 640-4294 for more information.
  • Completion: Program certificates take one to four years to obtain, depending upon the skill.
  • Estimated tuition: From $2,625 to $3,775 per academic year, depending upon the program and what year a student is in. Scholarships will be available, and “KEES scholarships” (based on high school grades, issued through the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority) can be used for select programs.
  • Programs: Intro to the Trades, electric, HVAC, plumbing, welding, and carpentry, although offerings can be adjusted based on workforce needs. Instruction will be heavy on hands-on training.
  • Schedule: The specific times for individual classes are not yet set, but Miller told the Covington board that daytime classes will be geared toward high school students, and evening classes will be geared toward adults.
  • Covington-reserved: 25 percent of spots in any program will be reserved for Covington students and residents up until 30 days before classes start.
  • Job placement: Miller said 98 percent of people who complete one of the EBI’s programs either find an immediate job (or entered the program “sponsored” by a company), and 76 percent of them are still working with the same employer two years later.
  • Instructors: “We recruit skilled tradespeople and show them how to teach, rather than hire teachers and try to show them the trades,” Miller said.
  • Future programs: EBI officials said the Covington Campus will be the site of future Restoration Trades seminars and workshops they are working with the City of Covington to set up. The restoration trades programs will focus on teaches skills related to working on historic structures.

Accessible and practical

West noted that the school is located on a TANK bus route, is close to major transportation routes, and is within walking distance of many Covington high school students.

A side goal of the program is to foster entrepreneurship, West said. The City will help anybody who completes the program and wants to start their own business, including targeted guidance from Kentucky Small Business Development Center coaches in Covington.

Dr. Vicki Berling, the BIA’s Director of Professional Development who manages the Enzweiler Building Institute, said its focus is results-oriented: efficiently and practically equipping people with the skills they need to obtain good-paying jobs and build sustainable, successful careers that support them and their families. The EBI helps set up and oversee numerous apprenticeships.

“Our programs are designed to prepare people for jobs as quickly as possible,” Berling said. “We know there is a great need for the skilled trades, especially in and around the booming city of Covington.”

Covington Commissioner Ron Washington said owners of several construction firms told him they were so desperate for workers that they’d be willing to pay tuition if it got them skilled employees. “This seems like a win in a lot of ways,” Washington said.

Mayor Joe Meyer, who was Secretary of the Education & Workforce Development Cabinet under former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, lauded the focus on improving Covington’s workforce.

“Of all the decisions we’ve made over the last year, none is more important than this one,” Mayor Meyer said. “This gives people who live in Covington a serious opportunity to access a high-demand, high-wage training program.”