Our founders have been an integral part of the homebuilding community for decades, as well as fierce advocates for education and advancement.

As a champion for the homebuilding industry, Oakwood Homes saw a crucial gap between industry demands for a ready and able workforce and qualified candidates. They also knew that skilled, talented, enthusiastic workers don’t always even consider a career in homebuilding. They set out to create an industry-led training academy to fuel the pipeline for skilled workers, inform more people about the benefits of a career in this field, and help support a vibrant, growing economy.

Oakwood Homes provided funding to BuildStrong Education to create Colorado Homebuilding Academy. The Academy then merged forces with Colorado Construction Institute so that the Academy could quickly make the most of CCI’s expertise in construction training.

Colorado Homebuilding Academy is supported by partnerships with Home Builders Association of Metro Denver and University of Denver – Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management. The Academy also receives support from Precision Building Systems, who provides physical space for training and administration.

We’re always looking for more partners, collaborators and new approaches to industry success for all. Want to get involved or support our efforts? Contact us

BuildStrong Education

Advisory Team

Amy Schwartz

Executive Director
BuildStrong Education

Pat Hamill

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Oakwood Homes

Eric Holt

Assistant Professor
University of Denver
Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate & Construction Management

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

Scott Thorson

Chief Operating Officer
Oakwood Homes

Academy Staff

Michael Smith, Director

Michael comes from the for-profit construction sector and has over 20 years of experience in business development and management. Michael turned his focus to the non-profit workforce development sector when he co-founded Colorado Construction Institute (CCI). After directing CCI for four years, he is thrilled to bring his experience of building the next generation of trade workers to Colorado Homebuilding Academy. When he is not working, Michael enjoys golfing, sailing, and spending time with his wife, Mychelle.

Joe Carswell, Lead Instructor

Joe’s strong leadership skills are built on over 20 years of experience in the construction industry. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from North Carolina State University, Joe spent several years drafting, preserving historic homes, and training work release prisoners for commercial installations. He also enjoys playing music and surfing.

Robert McElreavey, Instructor

Robert is a Master Plumber with over 30 years of experience. He has been teaching the construction trades for 14 years, including apprenticeship-level plumbing. Robert has also taught carpentry skills to adults at Salvation Army centers and to court-involved young men at Ridge View Youth Services Center. When he is not working, Robert enjoys skiing, biking and surfing and spending time with his wife and two children.

Eric White, Instructor


Eric began his career as a commercial flooring installer before becoming a carpenter for 12 years in residential new construction/additions and commercial renovations. He has also run his own handyman company for 7 years, rehabilitated historic structures and led construction projects in remote locations. His particular interests are in green building/sustainability, hiking and making crafts.

Mark Babcock, Instructor

Mark has been involved in construction on and off since 1985, starting as a framer’s helper and progressing to project manager for high end home renovations. After taking a year off to become a dive instructor in Roatan, Honduras (where he met his wife), he moved from Canada to Denver to be with his wife Lori. He enjoys traveling, diving, and working on cars in his spare time. Mark is very excited about being a part of the Colorado Homebuilding Academy and teaching the next generation of construction experts.

Robert Hernández, Business Services Manager

Prior to joining the Academy, Robert was contracted on a short-term basis by Roots Elementary in NE Park Hill to ensure proper execution of school operations during school’s search for permanent Manager of School Operations. Robert also recently graduated from CodeCraft, a 10-week boot camp on designing and building websites using MEAN stack technologies. In addition, he directed the Innovation Lab in NE Park Hill for Mi Casa Resource Center as both a manager and business consultant. He also directed operations and human capital services for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Afghanistan team in Washington D.C. Robert also served almost four years with the Peace Corps in Paraguay as a small business development advisor and program coordinator, and later returned to the country as a technical trainer for municipal services development. Robert holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and procurement from the University of San Diego and is an amateur photographer.