While most of the construction industry closes down for the winter, $20-million Garden State Brickface & Stucco Co. runs a rigorous training program for nearly 150 of its 500 employees.

It is an unusual occurrence in an industry that is notoriously deficient in providing in-house, on-site training. But to chief executive officer David Moore, training is clearly worth the effort. "We wouldn't be able to develop the skills we need without it," he says. Nor, given the transient nature of construction workers, could this private, nonunion exterior-remodeling company maintain its low turnover rate -- less than 7% after one year on the job.

Workers who sign up for the program are required to have at least three months of tenure at the company. Although compensation during the program varies, depending upon skill level and length of employment, all employees receive full benefits during the training. Those who graduate, Moore says, can count on being promoted faster, and paid better, than those who don't.

Brickface University, as the training session is called, costs $250,000 a year to run, "half of which we recoup in reduced employee turnover alone," Moore says. The program includes videotapes, slide shows, elaborate training manuals, classroom lectures, and construction of two 9,000-square-foot walls on which employees can practice sculpting surfaces in different patterns and textures. "Basically, it's a very, very specialized, almost proprietary product we have," adds Moore. "For us to continue growing over 30% a year, we have to take people and give them our skills. The best way to do that is to train our own employees."