Attorney General Phil Weiser today announced that his office is expanding its rural housing revitalization grant to support a new trades program at Pueblo Corporate College, a division of Pueblo Community College, and expanded programs at Trinidad State College and Lamar Community College.
Communities in southern Colorado have long faced challenges with blighted housing and shortages on available housing stock. This housing shortage is partially due to the age of houses and the lack of appropriately trained labor in the area to renovate the old and dilapidated homes.
To address this housing challenge, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office launched a $5 million grant program, the Colorado Partnership for Education and Rural Revitalization (COPERR), in 2020 to both revitalize rural housing and support construction training programs at community colleges in southeastern Colorado.
The initial grant helped Trinidad and Lamar colleges launch their programs, and the additional grants will support them as they expand the COPERR programming in their communities. Pueblo Corporate College is new to the COPERR program and will use its grant to launch new curriculum in construction skills training and partner with local non-profit organizations to provide students with on‑the-job training at local housing construction sites.
“As we witnessed in the first years of this grant program, colleges in southern Colorado successfully developed additional programming to train students for the workforce and renovate dilapidated homes in their communities,” Weiser said. “The expansion of this grant will support them as they continue to reinvigorate housing options and support students learning a construction trade that meets compelling workforce needs in their communities.”
Communities and their colleges to expand trades programs for college and high school students
Pueblo Corporate College (PCC) will receive over $417,000 to initiate its COPERR program. In partnership with non-profit organizations in PCC’s service area, the PCC COPERR curriculum stresses a balance of classroom, technical, and hands-on learning within the context of the industry’s current practices. After completing the program, students will be able to demonstrate proficiency in the trade skills, including instruction in equipment and safety; blueprint reading; construction math skills; measurements; and framing. Students also gain information about the construction industry and how to seek employment and receive connections to mentors and community resources through classroom presenters and field trips.
“Pueblo Community College is pleased to have the opportunity to partner with the attorney general and his COPERR project,” said PCC President Patty Erjavec. “Not only does this initiative give us the opportunity to enrich the lives of those interested in acquiring skills and competencies in the construction trades, but we are humbled to play a part in the revitalization of blighted neighborhoods in the communities we serve.”
Trinidad State College (TSC) was part of the first grant announcement in 2020 and welcomed its first group of students to its COPERR construction class in March of 2021. As part of the grant expansion, TSC will receive additional funding to expand COPERR programming to its Valley Campus, located in Alamosa. Students spend their mornings in class and their afternoons at the job site and will receive a stipend and experiential learning credits for their work on the jobsite. As of November 2022, the total grant amount for the college is $2.76 million.
“We’re looking forward to bringing our successful Construction Trades program to the TSC Valley Campus,” said Dr. Rhonda Epper, president of TSC. “It’s a win-win program that meets workforce needs while also bringing blighted houses back to life and making our communities more livable. This investment is just the boost we need to help train more construction workers while addressing blighted housing in Las Animas County and surrounding communities.”
Lamar Community College (LCC) will receive additional grant funding to expand its programming to include high school students at two remote high school locations located in the northern and southern parts of LCC’s service area. LCC will use two mobile classroom trailers to work directly with high schools in each region, with the goal of either creating a pipeline for students into college or the ability to seek employment utilizing the knowledge they gain through COPERR courses. LCC anticipates completing six renovation projects with at least three renovations outside the city of Lamar, but within LCC’s service area. As of December 2022, the total grant amount for the college is $1.46 million.
“From the very beginning of this outstanding project, the attorney general and his team have recognized the importance of rural colleges working to solve rural problems, like substandard housing,” said retiring LCC president, Dr. Linda Lujan. “LCC is so appreciative of the funding, support, and trust placed in us through this grant and is excited to expand opportunities to other areas of Southeast Colorado as the college engages high school students in more remote areas in the construction trades program. It’s a win for students, communities, the college, and Colorado.”
The COPERR program is funded through money the state received from the national mortgage settlement, a settlement reached in 2012 after 49 states sued mortgage servicers after the 2008 financial crisis. Before the launch of this program, none of the funds obtained in this 2012 settlement were used in Southeastern Colorado.