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Students learn trade skills, build sheds for veterans during two-day event


IDAHO FALLS – Ten veterans and a nonprofit organization were each gifted a shed built by local students.

Each veteran was recognized with a standing ovation Thursday afternoon inside the old Deseret Industries building at 450 E Street as part of the fourth annual Construction Combine. The event was sponsored by the Eastern Idaho Homebuilders Association, College of Eastern Idaho and Home Depot.

Sandra Petrovic, an executive officer with the homebuilders association, tells Home Depot helped identify the veterans who would be awarded with sheds. She’s grateful to be able to honor them in person again this year after not being able to in 2020 due to COVID-19.

“This is just awesome for kids to see where everything they’ve done is going (and to honor veterans for their service). To hear all that they’ve done for this country and all the accolades — I think that’s amazing,” Petrovic says.

Ten veterans were recognized for their service and awarded a shed at the fourth annual Construction Combine in Idaho Falls Thursday afternoon. | Rett Nelson,

The nonprofit awarded a shed was Champ’s Heart.

RELATED | Four local men purchase property to give Champ’s Heart a permanent home

The Home Depot Foundation works to improve the lives of veterans and provides grant funding for community causes nationwide. Construction Combine organizers worked with the American Legion to identify local veterans who would benefit from owning a shed.

“The goal is to help veterans who are disabled to be able to put stuff out of their home into a shed for storage … to make their house safer for them,” says Pam Bradley, an employee with Home Depot in Idaho Falls.

The 8-foot by 10-foot sheds were built over the course of two days and donated as part of the event’s concluding ceremony.

High school students throughout eastern Idaho along with several young adults participated in the two-day event, which is designed to help them learn a variety of skills in the construction industry. Students received hands-on instruction in welding, plumbing, electrical work, framing, dry-wall and more.

Representatives from local contracting companies were also in attendance to provide networking opportunities and work directly with the students.

CEI manufacturing and trades program manager Gary Holyoak says it was rewarding to watch each student’s progress throughout the event.

“(Wednesday) morning (some) were kind of shy and weren’t sure. Every time they touched a tool, they thought they were going to break it. Then seeing them (Thursday) … they were just working the tools and they had made some connections with the contractors and their fellow classmates. Many of them found a passion and they’ve decided they’re going to (pursue) a trade,” Holyoak says.

Kiersten Correia, a sophomore attending online at Bonneville High School, says her grandpa and uncle have served in the military and worked with their hands throughout their life, which prompted her to participate in the event.

She’s looking at construction as a future career and particularly enjoyed the framing portion.

“It was cold but it was fun with everyone around helping out, learning new things that I didn’t know about,” she says.

In today’s world, Holyoak says learning a trade is valuable because it provides a practical skill you can use in your daily life. Working with your hands is rewarding, he says, because it gives you something tangible where you can see the project take shape and there’s a lot of satisfaction from that.

Labor and supply chain shortages have created a huge demand for skilled trade workers. For those who feel the classroom isn’t their thing and who want to get their hands dirty, Holyoak says there’s an abundance of work available and this may be the right career path for them.

“There’s no reason you can’t go out and make $100,000 as a journeyman or a carpenter,” he says. “Nobody realizes how important a tradesperson is until their toilet doesn’t work. There are contractors booked out two years in advance just waiting for a house to be built or for somebody to come and put a wire in the ground. There is so much opportunity for anyone who has a passion to get their hands on it.”

A similar event is being held in Driggs on April 20 and 21. It’s free for anyone who wants to participate. To register or learn more, click here.

Sandra Petrovic, third from right, with other Eastern Idaho Homebuilders Association contractors at the Construction Combine event. | Rett Nelson,

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