Each year, members of the HBA of Great Falls (HBAGF) in Montana work to ensure their local junior high and high school shop class has the tools or materials they need to start off the academic year on the right track. And throughout the school year, the HBA dedicates time and money to students interested in pursuing a trade career.
In August, the local shop class instructors provide the HBA with a list of needs for the classroom. Members then work to fulfill the request, no matter how big or small, says Katie Hanning, executive officer, HBAGF.
“The members of the HBA of Great Falls are the advocates for shop students in this community. We write checks, we get materials for them,” says Hanning. “You gotta walk the walk and talk the talk. You can't complain that you don't have employees in your area if you're unwilling to step up and help the next generation.”
In addition to the back-to-school wish list fulfillment, HBAGF fills the coffers of the two junior high school shop classes at the beginning of the calendar year. The money comes from a straight budget line item from the HBAGF Home and Garden Show. The junior high uses the funds to purchase supplies such as lumber and safety equipment for their classrooms. Hanning says that members are steadfastly committed to providing funds to the shop classes from the Home and Garden Show even during lean financial times.
“If its’ for the kids, it’s never a no.”
The HBAGF takes its commitment further by offering booth space at the Home and Garden Show to the junior high and high school shop class every year, free of charge. The junior high students make items in shop class, such as cutting boards, and sell them at the show. The high school students build a shed and raffle the structure off at the show. The HBA does not accept any funds raised from the shed raffle.
The association also invests in top individual talent. Each year, the two local high school shop classes build a house. After completing the project, the class instructors recognize the most dedicated students. HBAGF offers two $500 cash prizes to the “top builders.” The students use the funds for items to help launch their careers, such as boots and tool bags.
The investment in students and shop classes has paid off in terms of growing interest and respect for the skilled trades locally, says Hanning. For example, the HBAGF captured students’ excitement about the skilled trades in their recent ‘Helping Tomorrow’s Builders’ video. “I love shop class now. I get to do something, and it really just prepares me for the future with an actual job,” said one local student.
“Our board decided a long time ago that the sooner these kids are experiencing the trades, the greater of a chance you'll have of getting them into the trades.”
Visit NAHB’s Workforce Development Resources page to view and download customizable tools and templates designed to support local skilled trades outreach.