February is Black History Month, which honors and celebrates the contributions of African Americans throughout history. NAHB strives to provide a welcoming environment where every person can thrive in the home building industry.
How do you grow a diverse residential construction industry workforce? The best place to start is by being inclusive and reaching out to build relationships. The HBA of Greater Houston is one association committed to attracting new talent from all backgrounds into the residential construction industry. The HBA invited architecture and construction science students from Prairie View A&M University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), to attend the association’s annual forecast luncheon.
The students learned from leading experts about the challenges and opportunities in the market. In addition, they took advantage of the in-person networking and met with NAHB Chairman Alicia Huey. Energized by the event, students were eager to fill internship spots, and learn more about the industry and HBA membership.
Faculty and member leaders are mentoring new talent, too. Dr. Charner Rodgers was the first African-American Student Advisory Board chair. She served for many years as a student competitions team coach. Under her guidance, HBCU’s Kennesaw State University and Tuskegee University won several NAHB Student Competitions during the International Builders’ Show. The all-female Tuskegee team won Rookie of the Year in 2020, and in 2022, the team made history, becoming the first HBCU team to win first place.
Dr. Rodgers says outreach is critical for recruiting HBCU talent: “Come visit. Get past the job fair, let students get to know you. Put in the time. I call it ‘face recognition.’ This industry is all about trust — let African-American students know you enough to trust that you really want them there [working for your company].”
NAHB member Kerwyn Jones-Wilson, CEO of Jones Construction & Design, LLC, is incoming president of the BIA of the Big Bend (Tallahassee, Fla.) and is a charter member/founder of the Gadsden County chapter of Future Builders of America (FBA). In 2023, she mentored an architecture team from Gadsden Technical Institute to a second place finish in the NAHB Secondary Schools Competition. In the competition this year, she leads construction engineering technology students from Florida A&M, an HBCU in Tallahassee.
“Kerwyn gives unselfishly of her time and talent to the FBA program, and our local association is proud of the mentorship she exhibits to the youth in our community,” said Jodi Sasse, executive officer of the BIA of the Big Bend.
From 2023 to 2024, NAHB has doubled the number of HBCU teams participating in the NAHB Student Competitions and more than tripled the number of HBCU student members as part of its commitment to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in the residential construction industry.
NAHB’s workforce development team will host events for underrepresented groups during the 2024 NAHB International Builders’ Show®. For more information, contact Greg Zick.