Build My Future Event Gives Students Hands-on Construction Experience

Steps were taken April 2 to shrink the home-building industry’s skilled workforce gap thanks to the inaugural Build My Future-ACE Career Day & Industry Showcase. The event, hosted by the ACE Sector Board, was held at Jones Hall on the Cedar Rapids Kirkwood Community College campus. Sponsors were Hills Bank and Trust Company, The Greater Iowa City Area Home Builders Association’s (HBA) Vocational Training Council, The Cedar Rapids HBA and Kirkwood Community College. 

A total of 153 7th- and 8th-grade students from nine different junior highs or middle schools in three Eastern Iowa counties busily learned construction-trade skills through 15 interactive, hands-on exhibits. Volunteers from HBA-member companies directed and inspired the kids. The fun included hammering nails for roofing carpentry, piecing together plumbing, operating heavy equipment, building a wall with brick and mortar, drywalling and more. Students also heard about architecture and engineering careers during educational sessions and stepped inside a tiny house.

“I liked that we got to do a bunch of things in different areas,” said Kennady Breitfelder, an 8th-grader from Springville. Her classmate Emerson Ripple’s favorite thing was the tiny house. “It was interesting and reduces space,” she said.

Learning about the construction trade in this way shows students early in their schooling an alternative path to a four-year college degree and lets them test-drive different careers. “Informing kids while they’re in junior high allows them time to learn more about the field, find what peaks their interests and explore throughout high school how it can be a viable choice for them,” said ACE Sector board member Tim Ruth of McCreedy-Ruth Construction, whose company taught kids how to build housing frames at the event.

The Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area Build My Future is one of four such events being held across Iowa this Spring. Others are through the Quad Cities Home Builders and Remodelers Association; HBA of Greater Des Moines and HBA of Greater Siouxland. A tool kit will be created by the National Association of Home Builders using Iowa Build My Future materials so HBAs nationwide can implement their own showcases.