Not all the skills necessary for a rewarding career can be found in a traditional classroom setting. Many come through hands-on work experience, especially skills found in the trades industry. Unfortunately, opportunities to learn those skills often don’t come everyday.
But for a group of Sho-Ban youth, that wasn’t the case. For them, the opportunity arrived in the form of a shed, one they got to build.
A Long History of the Trades
The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, located on the Fort Hall Reservation, have a long history with skilled trades and trade apprenticeship programs. As Denell Broncho, Tribal Employment Rights Director for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, states, “traditionally, generations of my people have learned skill sets by watching then doing. Studying a construction trade is no different.”
The Tribe has a Department of Labor approved apprenticeship program. The Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO) administers the various trades, including Electricians, Plumbers, HVAC, Heavy Equipment Operators, and Carpenters, and CEWT provides classroom instruction through its Apprenticeship and Registered Apprenticeship Program. As director of TERO, Denell is responsible for promoting qualified Native Americans for employment on the Fort Hall Reservation, particularly for jobs in the construction industry.
She feels that in order to accomplish TERO’s mission, “it’s important to create learning opportunities for members of the reservation community.” The construction combine, an annual event hosted by CEWT and Home Depot, has been one such opportunity for the past three years.
A New (Old) Program
Due in large part to the success of the Construction Combine, when Delverne Seaman, the Tribal Courts Tribal Youth Volunteer Coordinator, reached out to Denell looking for a program to help youth build a shed for the new Youth Hangout Building, she readily agreed to help.
The program was designed as a smaller scale Construction Combine. Over the course of three days, the youth would build a shed, learning various carpentry skills and how to work the equipment along the way. TERO provided the trainers, equipment and place to build the shed, while the Tribal Courts Tribal Youth Program paid for the materials under a PA9 Tribal Youth Program grant.
Steve Quinton, a CEWT carpenter apprenticeship instructor, was introduced to the program through his wife Annie. He’s been in the construction industry for over 50 years, and now teaches those skills to others. His role was to oversee the youth and teach them the basic skills needed to be a carpenter.
When asked what the best moments of the program were for him, he responded “Working, watching, and getting to know these young humans. Love watching them understand aspects of this program that they didn’t know.”
The program turned out to be a great success. As the days went on, the youth grew more confident in their skills. Denell said some of the best moments were “seeing the youth grow curious and confident with every snap of chalkline, buzz of the chopsaw, mark of the pencil, and trigger pull of the nail gun. The smiles and nods of encouragement grow as walls are put up and shingles are placed.”
In the future, TERO plans on continuing this smaller scale Construction Combine for the youth. “In fact,” Denell says, “we hope to ‘build’ stronger futures for area youth by continuing to plan smaller shed building events specifically with the carpenter apprentices and high school youth.”
Steve also hopes the program continues. “I feel this year’s program will be a good example of dealing with all levels in one year, and splitting the time with a hands-on class. Looking forward to seeing how it turns out.”
Carpentry—and other skilled trades—are quickly becoming some of the most valuable skills a youth can have. Denell, who keeps close track of job postings in the area found that in the last quarter, there were over 8000 job openings in the local area, with maintenance, construction, repair and production workers all being in the top 20.
In her own words, “Apprenticeship training is a viable ladder towards a career in the construction industry and it all begins shed by shed!”