HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For three summers, high school student Dominic Gaspar has attended Honolulu Community College's construction academy.
In that time, he's learned everything from advanced welding to carpentry to auto body repair and painting.
He's also been taught less tangible skills.
"I learned how to behave, how to hold myself up, how to become presentable with the instructors and mentors here," he said.
The academy is being praised for its efforts to ready young people for the construction industry -- before they even graduate from high school. And there's hope the academy will help Hawaii meet the needs of a booming construction industry.
The State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reports there were 40,700 construction jobs statewide in May. That's up 6,700 jobs from just a year ago, which means growth in construction has outpaced even the hospitality industry.
Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, executive director of the Hawaii Construction Alliance, says the growth won't stop any time soon.
"We absolutely need more workers in Hawaii's construction industry of all skill levels," he said.
For Gaspar, the program has been a way to gain new experiences and skills.
"I love everything about it," he said.
The sum total of those skills are what employers are desperate for.
"In addition to Kakaako and rail and TOD (transit-oriented development), we're also looking at Ho'opili and Koa Ridge (projects) here on Oahu starting up in the next few years, and on the neighbor islands as well," Dos Santos-Tam said.
Those projects will be decades in the making, offering not just jobs but careers.
"They also earn a good living, and for those members in a union they get really good benefits as well," Dos Santos-Tam said.
That's something to look forward to for a group of young people who have already gotten valuable skills in the HCC program.
"Something my dad likes to say is learning these new skills is just giving me more experience and knowledge, so I can apply it to other things as well," Gaspar said.