Student Chapters: A Perfect Partnership

1794654_707441065955304_531299411_nThe University of North Florida’s student chapter provides a perfect example of why all HBAs should have one.

“The student chapter is a seamless part of our HBA,” said EO Corey Deal of the Northeast Florida Builders Association (NEFBA). “I wouldn’t know what to do if they weren’t here.”

The NAHB Student Chapters program enriches students’ educational experience with first-hand exposure to the real world of the building industry through NAHB membership, educational programming, and networking opportunities.

Offered for high school, two-year community college programs and four-year university programs, NAHB has over 100 student chapters.

By participating in your HBA, students prepare to be great leaders, said David Hacker, student chapter advisor and adjunct professor at the University of North Florida (UNF). Hacker knows what he’s talking about: four of the last six NEFBA presidents are UNF School of Construction grads.

“There is a special place in their hearts for these students,” Hacker said of NEFBA members. “There are great networking opportunities for the students. They come to mind first when builders from our HBA are looking to hire.”

NAHB Student Chapter members also get leadership experience: There is a board position for the UNF construction program usually filled by the university liaison. However, when the liaison isn’t available, students are responsible for filling in to report on what is going on at UNF.

As part of the construction management curriculum, students must take a housing and land development class, during which they manage the construction of a single-family home. They are also required to do five “industry involvement” credits, which can include volunteering at HBA events, building homes for Habitat for Humanity and similar activities that get them more involved with the industry.

The HBA provides the UNF student chapter with supplemental class lectures from local home builders, developers and remodelers. The HBA also donates money to help the students travel to the IBS Residential Construction Management Competition (at which they took second place this past year).

Builder members also coordinate site visits for students, and invite them to special HBA events. The two organizations “dovetail really well,” Hacker said.

“The number of students from our student chapter who have gone on to work for local home builders is in the double digits, and everyone of them has excelled,” said Hacker. “Additionally, every builder who has hired a UNF student has come back to the university to hire more students. That is a function of getting students so involved while they are still in school, and getting them to have real industry experience so that they can hit the ground running when they graduate.”

But the best benefit is the experience they gain, Hacker said. They come in to the program not having any experience in residential construction. By the end, they have been involved in industry meetings, non-profit building projects and other events that give them a much better idea of how the industry works.

“It is incredibly rewarding to watch these students go from not knowing what their path in the industry will be to meeting people in the industry and then choosing a path in residential construction,” Hacker said. “It is just so rewarding to see that come full circle.

“This is what I am passionate about,” said Hacker. “I think having a student chapter makes the construction management department stronger, it makes our HBA stronger, and it helps to bridge the gap between the two.”

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