NAHB’s Boys & Girls Clubs of America partnership pilot program was not the genesis of a consultant or a white paper recommendation. Instead, John McKenzie, a Madison Area Builders Association (MABA) member for 30 years, approached NAHB with scaling the idea nationwide after launching a successful partnership with his local club and MABA.
“It was the perfect synergy of two large organizations,” said Gregory Zick, NAHB AVP, Workforce Development. “HBAs are in rural, suburban and metro areas. And we want to introduce careers in construction to as many kids as possible. Thanks to the pilot program, HBAs are now engaging with local clubs and members serve on their boards.”
McKenzie started working with Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County, Wisc. (BGC) because he was impressed with their mission. The club awarded one scholarship and the recipient achieved remarkable success. This outcome inspired McKenzie to do something else with BGC with a broad reach and ongoing impact. That’s when he started thinking about the needs of his apartment complex business and how they might align with the mission of BGC.
“My company would have projects we couldn’t finish for weeks or months because we couldn’t find a carpenter. It was and remains a real problem,” said McKenzie. “The other thing I was aware of was the construction workforce was primarily male, getting older, and primarily white. So, a light bulb went off. What a fantastic opportunity to introduce skilled trades to the young people of the Boys & Girls Club!”
Then, McKenzie connected BGC to MABA. The initial concept was to create a place where kids could participate in career introductory programming. He also wanted to help close the race and gender wealth gap by incorporating instruction on how to save and invest money.
The team found a facility near a bus route to help lessen the transportation burden on students. The plan was to beautify the building enough to compete with college campuses. Initially, McKenzie and the team expected to fundraise about $2 million and he would also contribute. To date, $31.4 million has been raised for the McKenzie Regional Workforce Center. The facility also has a full floor dedicated to wealth building and entrepreneurship. The center will be completed by July 2023.
“It has been so energizing for me and the people involved in it. The excitement, the positive feeling of people on our staff, in our organization, on our board, but beyond that, in our community,” said BGC President and CEO Michael Johnson. “And 75% of the money has come from private donations, industry, and the building business. It says so much about what individuals who buy into an idea can do and how much good will and positive energy there is in this country.”
Contact NAHB if your state or local home builders association is interested in connecting with a Boys and Girls Club in your community.