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 Denver (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.
Damon DiFabio is a longtime educator from Colorado Springs, and recently took the helm of the BuildStrong Academy of Denver 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.
Prior to joining the Academy, Roberto worked as a small business consultant and contractor for Denver-based organizations, and learned how to design and build websites to boost his software and coding background. Before moving to Denver, he worked in Washington D.C. to direct operations, data management, and human capital support for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Afghanistan team. Roberto also served four years with the Peace Corps in Paraguay, S.A. (where he met his future wife, Bonnie) as a small business development advisor and program coordinator. Robert holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and procurement from the University of San Diego and is an amateur photographer and guitar player.
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.
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.
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 Denver 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.
John has been married for 36 years and currently has 3 adult children and 3 grandchildren. He is a life-long building contractor. 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 also been a teacher for many years, including vacation bible school, Bible College, youth, adults, and carpentry. Now 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 started his career in the live entertainment industry in 2008. He spent several years as a scenic carpenter, properties, and arena rigger before eventually becoming a Production Stage Manager and Technical Director. When the pandemic struck and the live entertainment industry came to a grinding halt, he decided to take the skills he acquired and apply them to the construction industry. He spent a lot of his career teaching and grooming the next generation of entertainment technicians. Now he is excited to help people develop new skills and prepare them for a rewarding career in the construction industry.
West Region | Starwood Land Ventures, LLC
Past President of Home Builders Association of Metro Denver
Chief Executive Officer
Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs
Precision Building Systems
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
University of Denver
Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate & Construction Management
Chief Operating Officer
Cheryl Schuette and Associates