When searching for hard-working, industrious kids looking to build something with their own two hands, working with the Boy Scouts of America would seem to be a natural fit. With the shortage in the construction labor pool that doesn’t seem to have any end in sight, Todd DeLonge of Lemel Homes saw an opportunity to sell youngsters on a career in the skilled trades with a fun program.
“I wanted to do something that would give us as much construction-type stuff to do and make it as grandiose as possible,” said DeLonge, who serves as construction manager for Lemel Homes. “In construction in general with the labor shortage and as little as kids know about construction, I wanted the older kids to work with tools and get as exposed as possible.”
The homebuilding industry certainly could use a boost in interest if labor demands are going to keep up with the housing boom. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 200,000 construction jobs are unfilled in the United States – an 81 percent increase in two years.
DeLonge is doing his best to alleviate the situation, one scouting event at a time. For the annual Family Day Camp for Cub Scout Pack 175 out of Sussex this June, DeLonge organized a doghouse-building project to expose the scouts and their siblings to different jobs in construction.
The scouts – and their siblings, parents and anyone involved who wanted to learn about construction – built the doghouses to benefit the Humane Animal Welfare Society in Waukesha. The society will auction off the houses, which will be decorated in a variety of themes this fall, to raise money for its mission.
Aside from helping the Humane Society, DeLonge chose doghouses for the project because it would give the 100 or so participants an opportunity to experience as many aspects of homebuilding as possible on a smaller scale.
DeLonge also organized other building projects for the camp that exposed kids to different skills. For example, scouts and their family also built a trebuchet, which is a type of medieval catapult. Once the trebuchet was complete, the campers, armed with about 300 tomatoes, took aim at DeLonge and another scout leader who were floating in kayaks on Lake Michigan.
Along with stations for the doghouses and the trebuchet, four groups of 20 or so people were rotated through stations to learn about plumbing and knot-tying, fishing, fire building and boiling eggs in paper cups as well. DeLonge organized the event – his fourth and final day camp as his sons are moving on from this pack to Boy Scouts and another Scout Pack – but he and the pack had immense support from a variety of sponsors, including Lemel Homes, Drexel Building Supply, Able Plumbing Supply, Pick N Save, Meijer and Piggly Wiggly.
“I take great pride in putting on a program like I did,” DeLonge said. “The only way I’m able to pull it off is through the support of so many people, especially from Lemel Homes. They back me and make our events a home run.”
Based on the reaction from those in attendance, kids and parents alike were plenty excited to learn something new.
“The kids were getting engaged with the projects they were working on,” DeLonge said. “In my eyes, this was the first step in what I can bring to the table as far as events to help promote the skilled trades among the youth, and it’s a small stepping stone toward many more events like this for many different youth groups that I can be a part of.”