On October 16th NARI’s Eastern Massachusetts Chapter held its third annual Youth Remodeling Career Day. This year’s event drew more than 500 students and teachers from 17 vocational schools located throughout the Commonwealth.
The Big Idea
The idea for Youth Remodeling Career Day was first suggested to chapter leadership by a member who had seen a similar event and thought it would be a good opportunity for the remodeling industry to engage young professionals.
Recognizing the potential for such an event to expose talented young people to the many career options in remodeling, Michelle Glassburn, EM NARI’s Chapter Executive, and her team of dedicated staff and volunteers set out to make it a reality.
Building a Network
The first challenge was developing relationships and building connections with local Career and Vocational Technical Education Schools (CVTES) to assist in raising awareness of the event among school staff and teachers. “We began by tapping into our members who were already serving on the advisory boards at the schools,” says Michelle.
Beyond that, the chapter organized a planning committee of volunteers who sent emails and followed up with calls to principals of CVTE schools in the area.
Chapter leaders and volunteers had set their goal at a modest 100 student registrants for their inaugural event in the fall of 2016. To their surprise, nearly 450 students turned out, making the event a success beyond the organizers’ most ambitious expectations. It was so successful that, in its second year, it was picked up by This Old House as part of their Generation NEXT campaign.
Again in 2018, the event attracted a record number of students. On a beautiful October morning at the Bolton Fairgrounds in Lancaster, MA, students lined up at registration. They were each given a hard hat and safety glasses and assigned in groups to participate in the interactive activities. In total the event featured nearly 30 stations and involvement by close to 100 NARI members.
In the pole barns and the field areas, students learned from interactive demonstrations of remodeling skills. Several activities featured competitions including head-to-head toilet installations and wiring contests.
One student really appreciated this aspect of the event, “I like all of the hands-on experience and how we got to do most of the stuff that would likely happen on a job site.” Another expressed a similar sentiment, “The most valuable part was learning about the different types of tools because it was focused in the field of work I want.”
Their teachers were equally impressed. “I liked the fact that the majority of the event was very hands-on for the students. Most events are a ‘view only’ type,” said one teacher. “The presenters worked very well with the students and were very approachable,” praised another teacher.
The enthusiasm extended to the event sponsors. “I really enjoyed working with the students and seeing how they all worked together to problem solve,” said event volunteer Sterling Bump of Custom Contracting, Inc.
Tips from the Pros
Another feature of Youth Remodeling Career Day was helping students with career readiness through mock interviews in the tented pavilion area of the Fairgrounds.
Students were paired with business leaders for ten minute mini-interviews covering both common interview questions and interview etiquette like eye contact and handshakes. In total, 105 students participated in mock interviews during the 2018 event. One student found this to be among the most valuable activities of the day, “I liked how they gave the option of doing mock interviews to help us in the future.”
The interviewers filled out an evaluation form for each student they met and all forms were sent to the schools for distribution back to the students. This provided an additional learning opportunity the teachers could follow up on to help the students continue to refine their interviewing skills based on the objective comments of the interviewers.
Benefits for All
For Michelle Glassburn, the benefits of Youth Remodeling Career Day are many. She is proud to note that, for the NARI chapter, the event has built trust and lasting relationships with the local Career and Vocational Technical Education schools. It has also brought dozens of members together and increased engagement with the association.
With the labor shortage in the trades, Michelle also sees the event as a big win for the sponsors. “Students make connections and move into apprenticeships or entry level careers with our members. It is a great avenue for quality local remodeling businesses to connect with engaged students who will soon graduate with valuable skills that make them an asset to these companies,” she says.
But the biggest benefit she sees is for the students. “In Massachusetts there are many more students interested in vocational schools than there are seats. A student may be interested in plumbing but there may only be carpentry seats available. We help expose them to the other trades. Although roughly three fourths of the students attending the event are in carpentry programs, more than one fourth are in plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc.” She continues, “This event is also a great way to give these students a leg up by connecting them with quality local remodelers where they may be able to start their career in the near future.”
Michelle wants to help other NARI chapters bring this event and its unique benefits to their own communities. She notes, “We actually developed a kit to help other chapters launch this type of event and I am happy to share this blueprint with anyone who is interested in bringing this event to their NARI chapter.”