Friends attend Skills Trade Workshop

How Partnerships Bring Change 

Mercy Housing Mountain Plains (MHMP) and Swinerton, a national construction company, recently teamed up for a Technical Construction Skills Trade Fair in Denver, where over 20 youth residents learned about the construction industry. Held at Swinerton’s Denver warehouse, students in grades six and up learned about the construction industry with the help of the Construction Education Foundation of Colorado representatives, while Swinerton’s apprenticeship program educated participants on career paths, benefits, and opportunities in the industry through hands-on activities. Divided into five working groups, each led by a Swinerton construction supervisor, the kids got their hands dirty rotating through each workshop – drywall, framing, concrete, welding, and construction careers.

Welding Tutorial
Mercy Housing youth put their welding skills to the test. Photo Credit: @TheUnfounddoor

“I loved welding because I like to draw,” said Lily, a resident youth, who took part in the day-long fair. While Mercy Housing youth student Isho’s favorite activity was concrete, “I liked smoothing it out,” he explained.

“We work together to provide affordable housing across the country while also striving to create opportunities for residents,” Patrick Otellini, Swinerton’s National Affordable Housing Director shared. “This includes initiatives like introducing elementary school children to potential careers in the construction industry and organizing events to empower high-school-aged youth with the skills required for entry-level work in construction or other apprenticeship programs.”

Put Your Hard Hats On

A traditional college experience isn’t for everyone and with the average debt for college students post-graduation hovering around $76,000, college degrees are less appealing. With so many opportunities in the skills trade industry, the Technical Construction Skills Fair introduced students to alternative education opportunities, such as apprenticeships, trade schools, community colleges, and in-house company programs like Swinerton’s Development Program. For some students pursuing a post-secondary degree, trade schools are a good option because they offer shorter programs and are more affordable. In addition, trade schools provide students with the opportunity to enter the workplace sooner. Students can also continue their post-secondary education at a trade school and still pursue a four-year degree later.

construction skills trade fair
Youth participant proudly shows his building skills.

“You don’t need to go into debt – you can learn about a career while making money in it at the same time,” explained Lindsay Brown, Community Liaison for Swinerton. “It’s important to show that someone who looks like you and has had a similar life journey can be successful. By creating awareness that college isn’t the only pathway after school to make a difference, we demonstrate that construction doesn’t have to be a backup plan, it can be THE plan.”

Shelly Marquez, Mercy Housing Mountain Plains President added, “Education and community go hand in hand. When community partners stand together to support education by providing diverse perspectives and resources, we can transform the lives of youth through dynamic and inclusive journeys.”

While this was the first Construction Skills Fair Swinerton has hosted for youth residents in the Mountain Plains region, the company also held a STEAM youth event at Mercy Housing California residence 290 Malosi in San Francisco’s Sunnydale neighborhood last year. Swinerton staff volunteered their time, and the kids had a fun day filled with learning new things. We currently have three more fairs planned with Swinnerton in 2024.

Building a Brighter Future

Mercy Housing and Swinerton have had a business relationship for nearly 30 years. In California, they are the general contractor of The Sunnydale Community Center, which broke ground last December. The company is using mass timber technology, a low-carbon alternative to steel, consisting of broken-down large structural wood components.

Mass Timber Technology
Swinerton is using Mass Timber Technology to build The Sunnydale Community Center.

Additionally, Swinerton was selected to be the general contractor for 1939 Market Street, a Mercy Housing California high-rise located in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood. An LGBTQ+ affirming affordable residential community, 1939 Market Street is being built in partnership with the nonprofit OpenHouse.

With shared values and a commitment to invest in social change, Swinerton and Mercy Housing are working together to transform the lives of those most in need by building affordable housing communities. With access to a stable home, residents can turn their attention to achieving their goals.