Members of the Greater Iowa City Area HBA know that to get kids interested in home building careers, they’ve got to start early.
The good news is that with the help of Clear Creek Amana Middle School, they’ve got a program tailor-made for curious sixth- to eighth-graders – leading them to consider this great career path.
The Summer STEM Construction Camp launched this summer and featured hands-on projects and presentations from engineers, trade partners to give these kids a taste of the business. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.)
HBA members and other sponsors provided building materials and underwrote the $100-per-student cost of the two one-week camp sessions, which both filled up quickly.
Led by a shop and a STEM teacher, the students got an introduction to workplace safety before getting instruction on tools – from using a tape measure properly to handling hammers, drills and saws.
The students learned about the coursework they should follow to get a good grounding in construction education. They talked about the range of jobs available and heard from the people who have those jobs.
And of course, the students went to work – building birdhouses, toolboxes and sets of park benches and raised bed planters. “They were amazingly well built,” said Clear Creek Amana teacher Reagan Boeset, who worked to put the camps together. The benches were given to sponsors or sold – putting money into the pot for next year’s summer camp.
Next year, Boeset wants to add field trips to the mix so students can visit a job site and talk to the builder and subs working there.
“I think really the idea is to get them out in the community a little more,” she said. “We want them to see real projects and be able to ask the workers questions, like what kind of training do you have, and how long did it take. And I want to do a project that the community has requested – maybe the city wants more benches, maybe the Little League or a community group wants something. If we can complete a project like that, there’s a little more authenticity” for the students at the camp.
“I think we will have a lot of kids who will come back” and attend the camp next year, too. “They had a lot of fun with it,” Boeset said.
“I really hope that it is a model that takes off. I think this is critical,” she added. “Kids have to start caring about opportunities that are out them, and a four-year college isn’t for everyone. Opportunities like this help take the stigma away that [working in the] trades is something other than a critical experience. These kids learned real- life applicable skills in just a week.”