HBA Workforce Development Project Captivates Community

Workforce Development
Contact: Greg Zick
AVP, Workforce Development
(202) 266-8493

Home builders associations (HBAs) around the country host annual home shows to benefit both their communities and their members. This year the Watertown Area Home Builders Association (WAHBA) in Watertown, S.D., proved to their community that they were more than just a home show by including an interactive workforce development area.

The addition of the workforce area generated excitement and engagement among members, students, community members, and the media.

WAHBA was looking for a way to get more involved in the community and raise awareness about careers in construction. Tony Kneeland, WAHBA’s 2022 Home Show Committee Chair worked with members and local area students to bring the workforce development area at the home show to life.

“There was a lot of buzz and excitement about the project,” said WAHBA Executive Officer Julie Kneeland.

The HBA secured a blueprint to create toolboxes that were recently used successfully by other HBAs in the area. WAHBA's members Cashway Lumber and Larry’s Lumber provided lumber at cost to create the toolboxes, and the Stan Houston Equipment Company donated 200 pairs of safety glasses. To polish off the toolkits, WAHBA member Sign Pro donated stickers with the WAHBA logo and website, and the booth signage.

Once WAHBA received the materials, it reached out to its student chapter at the local high school to assemble the toolbox kits before the show.

“One of the best parts of planning for this event was working with the high and college school students. They were having a blast doing it and the instructors were excited too,” said Julie Kneeland.

high school students prep toolboxes
The local student chapter at Northeast Technical High School pre-assembled toolkits for WAHBA's workforce development area. 

WAHBA also invited students from the Lake Area Technical College to help staff the area and assist with the construction of the toolkits. The college also brought a heavy operations simulator so kids exploring the booth would have the opportunity to experience what it's like to run a backhoe and other machinery.

Julie Kneeland said the opportunity helped reinforce to college students the importance of getting involved in the community and helping to attract the next generation of skills trades professionals.

On the day of the event, kids as young as three years-old through middle school flocked to the workforce development section with their parents. The kids were excited to wear and keep the safety glasses and proudly walked around the show with their completed toolboxes.

The activity generated so much buzz that the local radio station reached out to Julie Kneeland, who spoke about the benefits of pursuing a career in construction. And the activity caught the attention of the local Boys and Girls Club, which expressed interest in a future collaboration activity.

“A lot of people in the community think we are just a home show. This activity opened their eyes and showed them that we work with high school students, college students and we are trying to build up the skilled workforce locally.”

The HBA is already planning for the workforce development area at the next home show.

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