Student Builder Conference Spurs Careers in Construction

Workforce Development
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How do you capture the attention of students and steer them toward a career in residential construction? The Home Builders Association of Richmond (HBAR) found the answer by creating an interactive experience designed to educate students about the wide variety of jobs within the industry. Last Month, more than 800 students from surrounding Richmond, Va., school systems attended the second annual Student Construction Conference held at the Richmond International Raceway. The event was organized and hosted by HBAR and the passionate members of their Workforce Development Committee. The 60,000-square-foot exhibition hall was filled with hands-on activities for high school students ranging from power drilling cabinets to spotting the leak in the plumbing line. “[Our Workforce Development Committee] wants to publicize to our local students, parents and educators that residential construction trades bring high paying jobs that lead to lifelong careers and entrepreneurial opportunities," said Mitchell Bode, president of HBAR. "It's important for our local community to understand that a student going into the trades can have a very successful future without racking up student debt at a four-year university.” Coordinating an event of this magnitude with multiple school systems is a large undertaking. HBAR utilized member connections with their local schools to help push the initiative to the forefront of school administrators. And funding from various sources helped organizers overcome some of the fiscal hurdles. “Grants from the National Housing Endowment’s Skilled Labor Fund and Home Builders Association of Virginia assisted with financial challenges of putting this event on, but we fund most of the extensive cost out of our local strategic funds set aside for workforce development activities,” Bode added. With now a second year of success under their belt, HBAR sets its sights on the next Student Construction Conference in November 2020. Active involvement from HBAR staff and members played a major role in increasing student attendance, generating greater support from school administrators and boosting participation from industry partners. “It is our goal in 2020 to continue to improve and grow this event," Bode said. "We aim to find even more partnerships, sponsorships and grants to help us cover more of the costs so we can continue to make a meaningful impact in our community.”  

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