Building skills and hope

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

An Iowa college’s pre-apprenticeship program helps students and the community

A program at Hawkeye Community College is giving students a path into the skilled trades while also giving homes in the community a face lift through its initiative “WE Build Waterloo.”

Hawkeye started developing a pre-apprenticeship program to teach young people construction trades about five years ago, around the same time Dean Feltes, One City founder and executive director, was researching community needs. Among the top priorities identified: the need for quality housing.

“We know the power of homeownership and the hope it brings into a family’s life,” Feltes said.

WE Build Waterloo officially launched in 2020.

The 18-24-year-old students get an introduction to the construction trades, such as building, plumbing and electrical during the free, 12-week program, which uses National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) core curriculum.

While they’re learning, they’re also rehabbing a home for a potential first-time home buyer. Hawkeye provides the tools; the students provide the work. Sponsors have given around $190,000 in grant money for supplies and materials.

The program recently unveiled the first completed home, a vacant house originally built in 1896 and owned by One City. Three circuits of apprenticeships worked on the home over the past year.

The home will be sold to a deserving family who couldn’t necessarily qualify to buy a home through traditional means.

Trying something new

WE Build Waterloo gives opportunities to people of all different backgrounds. Some of the students came in with no experience in construction.

Maryam Moshood had never considered learning a construction trade. When she saw a flyer for the program, her sister encouraged her to give it a try.

“When I came in, I thought I would probably be done after a week, but I found myself enjoying the program,” Moshood said.

“The program is designed to help students figure out what their next step is, and that can be very different student to student,” said Val Peterson, workforce development coordinator for Hawkeye and IowaWORKS.

Now that her 12-week stint is over, Moshood’s next step is taking a job with a local construction company and beginning a registered apprenticeship program.

“It has been amazing to watch this first cohort be so committed to the program and ultimately to their future,” One City’s Feltes said. “Every time I was at the house the students were working, smiling, and enjoying the process. I know many have already had job offers. It has been extremely beneficial for students and the neighborhood.”



AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.