New initiative looking to get younger set interested in construction trade

Michael Yoder//October 9, 2019

New initiative looking to get younger set interested in construction trade

Michael Yoder//October 9, 2019

ABC Keystone has teamed up with the Hands-On House to present a new exhibit based around construction careers. Kicking off the concept were, from left: Jim Bland, executive director of the Hands-On House (HOH); Justin Manning, HOH chair; Douglas M. Dvorchak, ABC Keystone chair; and G. David Sload, president and CEO of ABC Keystone. (Photo: Submitted)

With an anticipated shortfall of workers filling needed construction trade positions in the upcoming decades, industry leaders are beginning to look at creative ways to find the future electricians, plumbers and architects.

The Keystone Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors is teaming up with the Hands-on House Children’s Museum of Lancaster to create a new construction-themed exhibit at the nonprofit education center based in Manheim Township.

Dubbed “HOH Construction Co.,” the planned exhibit slated to open in early 2020 is designed to allow children and their families to enter a simulated job site, interacting with different elements to learn about career options in the construction industry and educational and training opportunities like apprenticeships. Geared towards elementary-school age children, the exhibit will also teach about different occupations that support the construction industry workforce development.

G. David Sload, president and CEO of ABC Keystone, said current projections show that more than 900,000 positions will need to be filled over the next decade because of retirements and current job openings in construction. He said steps need to be taken now to ensure the construction industry doesn’t face a crisis for manpower.

“This exhibit is vital to introducing today’s youth to the many career opportunities available in the industry,” said Sload.

Planning for the exhibit began as early as May 2018 when officials at the museum were looking for a new educational concept.

The centerpiece of the exhibit consists of a “build house” in different stages of completion, officials said. Several different areas in the building will highlight trades, including pulling wire as an electrician, installing PVC pipe as a plumber, finishing trim as a carpenter and building a brick wall as a mason.

Apprentices working with ABC Keystone are taking part in constructing much of the structure, officials said, which is proposed as a multi-floor clubhouse to be built at a height and dimensions allowing parents to interact and with their children inside the house.

An artist rendition of the “HOH Construction Co.” exhibit set to be built by ABC Keystone volunteers at the Hands-On House in Manheim Township. (Photo: Submitted) –

To simulate entering a job site, children will don hard hats, gloves and vests before choosing from a set of tools related to their chosen construction trade.

Several other proposed exhibit elements include: a foreman’s station where blueprints can be reviewed; an excavating zone consisting of contained foam dirt and rubber boulders; a concrete mixer with a hand-turned mixer and wheelbarrows; and trade stations explaining more about each trade and how they work together to finish a project.

Hands-on House has been educating children ages 2–10 years old since it opened its doors on the grounds of the Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum in 1987. The non-profit organization dedicated to creating learning experiences through play was created through a task force started by the Junior Leage of Lancaster.

“We are delighted that our partnership with ABC Keystone will provide new opportunities to educate future generations,” said Jim Bland, Hands-on House executive director. “We look forward to working closely with ABC Keystone to generate and sustain interest in the construction industry and the trades, by giving children and families a hands-on, developmentally appropriate introduction to the jobs that build our community.”

ABC Keystone is a construction trade association based in Rapho Township representing nearly 600 construction-related firms. Besides ABC Keystone, the Building Industry Association of Lancaster County and Clark Associates Charitable Foundation have committed funding to the Hands-On House construction exhibit as sponsors.