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Colorado’s and our homebuilding industry’s labor shortage means we must have innovative solutions to meet critical workforce needs.

A serious problem facing Colorado’s construction industry is a persistent shortage of skilled labor. At a time of record industry expansion, construction employers struggle to find enough qualified workers to meet market needs.

BuildStrong Academy of Colorado (formerly Colorado Homebuilding Academy) was founded specifically to address this labor issue. Through a series of innovative, industry-driven training programs for youth and adults, the Academy is building a highly-skilled labor force that can meet the demands of Colorado’s expanding construction industry.

Student at a Construction bootcamp in Denver

Academy Operations Team

Damon

Damon DiFabio, Director

Damon DiFabio is a longtime educator from Colorado Springs, and recently took the helm of the BuildStrong Academy of Colorado this summer after finishing his sixth year as Principal at Career Readiness Academy.

Over his career in education, DiFabio has also taught at the elementary level, and held Assistant Principal roles at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. During this time, he had the opportunity to build relationships with students, helping them gain employment skills for the construction trades and then supporting their transition into building careers. Damon intends to leverage this experience to increase the Academy’s impact in the local Denver Metro community and with its construction and homebuilding business partners.

Contact Damon

Allison Stepnitz

Allison Stepnitz, Operations Manager

Allison is a Michigan native and studied geology at Grand Valley State University before going to work as an exploration geologist at a gold mine in Alaska. She moved to Colorado in 2013 when she began working in the homebuilding industry in customer service, working her way up to operations manager for a local Colorado builder. She joins the BuildStrong Academy with a broad set of management skills and a passion for homebuilding and community impact. She hopes to lead the operations team to success by elevating their passion and experience with operational excellence, and joining them in making a meaningful impact on the skilled labor workforce and the local Denver Metro community.  Outside of work, she enjoys hiking with her little dog Kevin, camping, going to concerts, painting, spending time with her partner and his two kids, and neglecting her many, many houseplants.

Contact Allison

Andy

Andy Coy, Recruiter

Andy’s mission in life is to create meaningful, authentic connections with everyone he meets, which manifests in his work as a recruiter. He’s spent most of his career recruiting for research studies, first at the Veterans Health Administration, and most recently for user research studies in the tech industry. He’s also owned a photography business for the past 5 years, which has allowed him to document weddings all across the country. In his free time, Andy can usually be found in the great outdoors rock climbing, trail running, or hiking with his wife.

Contact Andy

Kristen

Kristin Davenport, Career Coach

Kristin Davenport is a native Coloradan and graduated from the Art Institute of Colorado with a Culinary Arts degree. Kristin has spent much of her career working in Corporate America as a recruiter for several Fortune 100 Companies (IBM, Comcast, UnitedHealthcare). Kristin previously worked for the City and County of Denver on the WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) Grant where she worked with employers all over the Denver Metro area to find the youth of Denver sustainable employment. Kristin has been a recruiter in the construction field for the last several years and looks forward to assisting BuildStrong Academy students/graduates with networking, resume building, interviewing skills and making introductions to employers in the BuildStrong Academy network. In her spare time, Kristin enjoys going camping, fishing and attending rock concerts with her husband, she is also known to throw dinner parties from time to time.

Contact Kristin

Irazu

Irazú Hernández, Data Specialist / Bookkeeper [Bilingual]

After graduating from the University of Denver with a B.A in Sociology and Spanish, Irazu began her career in Community Engagement. After traveling to the heart of Community Organizing, San Jose, California- for a 9-month activist training, she soon realized that her passion was rooted within her community and the people. As a young immigrant Latina growing up in West Denver, she understood the importance of becoming the voice of those who do not have one. Irazu now supports students at the BuildStrong Academy of Colorado achieve their construction career goals by breaking down any social and economic barriers. Irazu enjoys exploring nature’s hidden gems while backpacking with her soulmate.

Contact Irazú

Instructors

John

John Kio, Lead Instructor

John has been married for 36 years and currently has 3 adult children and 3 grandchildren. He is a life-long building contractor and he custom-builds homes from the ground up. He is also a life-long missionary and has been involved in inner-city missions as well as overseas. John has been a teacher for many years, including vacation bible school, Bible College, youth, adults, and carpentry. Since being involved in the Academy, he’s been able to pass on his experience and skills to help carry on a building legacy within the community and help students to join a exciting new career in construction.

Jacob

Stephen Abeyta, Instructor

Involved in the home building industry for over 20 years, Stephen has worked in positions ranging from Customer Service to Construction Superintendent. Between 2008-2013, Stephen followed his passion for supporting young people and worked in education, as well as coached football and baseball at the high school level. Stephen is a native of Thornton, Colorado, he has been married 23 years to a high school math teacher, and he has two adult children – an 18 year old son and a 20 year old daughter, not to forget their two 11-year old Maltese fur babies! Stephen has always had a strong passion for family, education, and construction, and at BuildStrong Academy of Colorado, he has the unique opportunity to merge all his passions into one career path which supports the building industry.

Part-time Instructors

Mark

Mark Babcock

Bill Wood

Bill Wood

Bill Wood

Bill Norwood

Advisory Team

Craig Campbell

President
West Region | Starwood Land Ventures, LLC
Past President of Home Builders Association of Metro Denver

Renee Zentz

Chief Executive Officer
Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs

Jay Small

President
Precision Building Systems

Amy Schwartz

Executive Director
BuildStrong Education

Pat Hamill

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Oakwood Homes

Eric Holt

Scott Thorson

Chief Operating Officer
Oakwood Homes

Our Partners

Oakwood Homes
Precision Building Systems
University of Denver
Home Builders Association of Metro Denver
QLTY

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