IDAHO FALLS — Local students got hands-on experience Wednesday with different trades at the two-day Idaho Falls Construction Combine.
The Home Depot Foundation, College of Eastern Idaho and the Eastern Idaho Home Builders Association teamed up for the event. While the first combine began years ago in Pocatello, the events spread to Idaho Falls in 2019, giving more opportunities to students in the area.
“We love the premise of trying to connect local businesses and young adults together in this construction world,” CEI Manufacturing and Trades Program Manager Matt Bates told EastIdahoNews.com. “Jobs come out of this, good connections come out of this and that’s what we like about it.”
Bates explained it’s notoriously hard to get young students thinking about construction careers. The typical thought process is to go to college, get a degree followed by a good-paying job. However, he said he’s learned it’s not just college degrees that can earn a living but skilled jobs in the trades.
“We give another avenue to those students who can’t sit in a classroom and know that’s not where they’re meant to be,” Bates said. “We can put them into things like this or apprenticeships that will help still them make a great living while not having to have that college degree.”
As part of the combine, several local contractors volunteered their time to share their skills and spark interest in young future builders. Among the 45 or so students capped in white hard hats was 16-year-old Tate. He said he enjoyed trying new things like framing, roofing, tile, electrical and more.
“I’m trying to get into welding and I figured it would be a good start,” Tate said. “I get to experience all this and it’s pretty fun.”
It’s not just the skills that come from the combine. Idaho Falls Home Depot Store Manager Tom Holmes explained that 10 storage sheds built during the event will be donated to local veterans. A Home Depot Foundation grant supplied the materials for the build, adding to the millions given around the country.
“It gives us a great feeling,” Holmes said. “This is one of the big core values of Home Depot, is giving back to our community. To be able to do this and help educate some of the children in the market as well as benefit the veterans — if you’ve ever done a volunteer project once you’ve done one, you want to do more because it’s very fulfilling.”
EIHBA Executive Officer Sandra Petrovic said partnering in the event helps support the home building industry and brings young workers to the industry. By having such a large variety of construction trades at the combine, Petrovic said it gives students a chance to find what they are good at.
“I think the best way to learn is hands-on,” Petrovic said.