In Montana, 5th and 6th grade students learned to measure twice and cut once this summer. This essential life lesson and other fun activities were all part of the HBA of Great Falls (Mont.) kids construction camp held June 20-22.
“You have to start introducing careers in the trades to students when they are younger, around the 5th or 6th grade,” says Katie Hanning, executive officer of the HBA of Great Falls. “The older they get, the more it is an uphill battle to get their attention and interest in careers in construction.”
The camp was held at the local high school shop class space for three consecutive half days. The days kicked off with snacks, then the kids started working on a personal project and a community project. The students made a birdhouse to keep and planters that will be placed on a community bridge.
Hanning says the students were working with more than just hammers and nails. Each participant had the opportunity to work with table saws and other equipment. She noted that the kids were apprehensive at first, but under the tutelage of the dedicated members of the HBA of Great Falls, excitement grew each day of the camp.
“I just find it’s an amazing experience to be able to just help them do something constructive,” said Jennisse Waters, a HBA of Great Falls member, to a local news station that covered the event.
The summer camp’s success was due to the National Housing Endowment (NHE), member volunteers and the HBA’s longstanding relationship with the local school district.
The HBA received a Career Connections Grant from NHE, which helped bring the camp to life by funding the purchase of supplies for the projects. In addition, the HBA places a high priority on workforce development, so there were no challenges in recruiting Builder and Associate members to volunteer their time to guide the students during the camp. And school district leaders promoted the camp, and shop class instructors donated their time and shop classrooms.
Hanning says participants of previous summer camps end up enrolled in junior high and high school shop classes. The HBA's workforce development outreach is broader than the summer camp. Members regularly donate supplies and equipment to ensure the shop classes are full of the workshop items they need to succeed throughout the school year.
“As everyone knows, we’re having a hard time finding people to get into the trades,” said Christina Keggi, an HBA of Great Falls member. “I think more importantly, we need to remind people how awesome this work is, how fulfilling, that you can create a wonderful career for yourself, a lucrative career.”