Through the lobbying efforts of the HBA of Michigan (HBAM), led by Dawn Crandall, EVP of government relations, the Michigan legislature appropriated $2 million in state funding to purchase Build Your Future: The Complete Guide to a Skilled Trades Career for every eight through 12th grader in Michigan. As a result, approximately 250,000 students in Michigan will receive a copy of the book.
“We hope the books become a pipeline builder for the construction trades and career and technical education programs,” says Crandall.
The book provides a comprehensive look at the various positions available in construction, manufacturing, transportation, energy and agriculture. In addition, the book debunks longstanding myths about careers in the trades. HBAM’s non-profit, Skilled to Build Michigan Foundation, will receive the funds and the books will be purchased and distributed to students in January 2023.
HBAM’s workforce development outreach success didn’t happen overnight. In 2020, the HBA of Michigan partnered with school counselors, K-3 teachers and lawmakers during Reading Month in March. As part of the collaboration, HBAM purchased 20,000 copies of the book Billy the Builder Bear Builds a House through the financial support of local Michigan HBAs and NAHB’s State and Local Issues Fund (SLIF).
Then, state lawmakers and HBAM members read the book to students in kindergarten through third grade in schools across the state. Each student received a copy of the book to keep. In addition, HBAM and the Skilled to Build Michigan Foundation branded the books with their logos to raise awareness of the non-profits to the students and parents. The HBA replicated the program in October during careers in construction month with an activity book targeted at fourth, fifth and six graders.
The books for each grade level correspond with HBAM’s three-tiered workforce development outreach strategy: cultivating, educating, and recruiting. Kindergarten through third grade is the cultivation process in which the book’s content generates the idea of being a builder. An activity book includes more concrete examples about the trades to educate students in the fourth through sixth grades. The hope is for high school students to consider taking a shop class or seek more information about the trades with the Build Your Future book as a recruitment tool, says Crandall.
As HBAs expand their workforce development outreach strategy, Crandall encourages them to consider a similar program to help create or strengthen relationships with educators and lawmakers.
“A reading program creates the basis of a relationship with a policymaker you can build upon. Suppose you walk into a lawmaker’s office with a book for a kindergartener and talk about what your association is doing to build the workforce locally. In that case, it changes the dynamic and it sets up an easier conversation to have in the future and it makes you more memorable.”