Skip to content

Workforce Partners with Habitat for humanity to present a pre-apprenticeship program for high school students

As homes in the Decatur area become uninhabited and deteriorate into a state of dilapidation, it is customary for the city to demolish these buildings. However, Workforce Investment Solutions, Habitat for Humanity, Decatur Public Schools, and the Community Foundation of Macon County have partnered together to present a program that gives these houses a second chance, all while promoting valuable careers, helping students develop professional skills, and investing in the strength of our local communities. 

Rather than demolishing these uninhabited homes and spending several thousand dollars to do so, the City of Decatur has agreed to donate the buildings to Habitat for Humanity and invest the money into repairs and updates. Local High School students are then provided the opportunity to work on renovating the homes, learning valuable career skills in the process.

Leading the project and supervising the students is Ed Walton, who teaches a building trades class at MacArthur High School. The Community Foundation of Macon County pays for his wages to allow him to work on the renovation site and instruct the students. Walton views the program as a “win for everybody.” The students learn professional skills, and they are paid through Workforce’s Youth to Career Pathways program. Habitat benefits from the repairs to its property. The project is also an investment in the Decatur community and enhances local neighborhoods. 

While Walton seeks to pass on tradesmen skills, his primary goal is to promote values and characteristics that will benefit the students in their future careers. He strives to teach the students how to problem-solve and discover solutions without his constant direction. “When they come to me and ask a question, I never give them an answer. I answer their question with a question,” he stated. “The idea is to get them to think about it.” Furthermore, Walton seeks to teach his students how to relentlessly pursue their goals. “It’s not about what you know,” he explained. “It’s about what you want to know and how you’re going to go about getting it.”

Walton’s students agree his instruction has prepared them for success. “I always enjoy working for Mr. Walton,” said Mark Uly, one of the students. “He teaches us so much, [from] life lessons, to work, to learning how to have fun while being efficient.”

The students also agree that this program has set them up for future success. “I believe many of these skills will follow me into adult life,” said Garrison Mays. Meanwhile, Avery Hall shared that he has learned “valuable skills that can help in everyday life and [in] getting a career.” Jacob Maglone expressed the importance of the opportunity to apply construction skills outside a classroom setting. “It gave me the opportunity to do hands-on [work] instead of just reading about it,” he said. 

Habitat for Humanity is currently in the process of selecting the family that will move into the house upon the project’s completion. The recipient will be able to purchase the house at a discounted price with an interest-free mortgage. No matter who moves in, however, this restoration project is providing these students with an unforgettable experience, and it is helping revitalize the Decatur community.

“It’s a common misconception that this generation doesn’t want to work and is lazy,” Walton stated. “There are a lot of kids who show up every day. It’s nice to see them and build relationships with them and know they are going to be successful.”