January 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of National Mentoring Month, an annual campaign to mentor young people, encouraging them to further academic achievement, to build character and confidence, and to help them navigate a path to success.
Since 1983, the Milwaukee/NARI Foundation, Inc., the educational and charitable arm of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, has been doing that on a local level, fostering students’ interest in a career in the home improvement/building trades industry.
“There are great careers in the home improvement industry and Milwaukee/NARI is proud to be able to offer mentoring by our members as well as scholarship opportunities,” said Greg Adamec, president of the Milwaukee/NARI Foundation and general manager at Milwaukee Millwork. “Not only do we expose students to the various facets of the industry, we also expose them to sound business practices and the high ethical standards Milwaukee/NARI members adhere to.”
Adamec explained the Foundation not only helps those bound for trade schools or apprenticeships, but also reaches out to high school students who are uncertain about a career choice. “We hope our efforts help kids stay focused and stay in school. Perhaps through our example, they too will be able to give back to others as they become productive members of the community,” he said.
As part of their outreach, Milwaukee/NARI members visit schools to talk about the opportunities in the building trades. “This industry offers so much to those who like to work with their hands and to those who have a lot of creativity,” said Ken Skowronski, a member of the Milwaukee/NARI Foundation board. Skowronski is a Certified Remodeler and the owner of Franklin-based KS Remodelers, Inc. “The Milwaukee/NARI Foundation provides an avenue to students who are not set on college, but have an interest in construction, landscaping, interior design, carpentry, mechanicals, and more. We want to let students know how the industry works and how they can achieve success.”
One of the points Milwaukee/NARI professionals stress when they meet with students is that they need to get serious about their studies and have a good grasp of basic skills, which they will need for any career path they choose. “I tell them they also need to know how to be courteous and to present themselves well, not only to future employers, but eventually to their customers,” Skowronski said. “We try to install enthusiasm in them and to motivate them to get themselves organized and apply for scholarship opportunities.”
Currently, the Milwaukee/NARI Foundation works with instructors and students at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), Waukesha County Technical College, Gateway Technical College, Mount Mary College, Bradley Tech High School, Community High School, and Franklin High School.
“I would love to see our efforts expanded to all the high schools throughout southeastern Wisconsin,” Skowronski said. “Guidance counselors need to know there is a program in place, and to make their students aware of it.”
Individuals can also take advantage of Milwaukee/NARI’s Student Membership program, available to those attending an accredited institution offering a certificate or associate degree in an area of commercial or residential remodeling or an associated field. Students can get one-on-one time with Milwaukee/NARI members at association meetings and receive the monthly newsletter. This can also lead to students being able to visit work sites as well as being exposed to business basics such as customer service, sales, work scheduling, and project estimating/billing.
Skowronski recalled mentoring one MATC student who remained employed with his firm. “I mentored her when she was a student at MATC. She has her own family now, but she still works for me on a part-time basis as a designer/estimator,” he said. “She is one of many who had a good opportunity and took advantage of it to build a career.”
Helping students achieve their goals, the Milwaukee/NARI Foundation awards from eight to ten scholarships annually. Although grade point averages and class rank are criteria, a student’s demonstration of work ethic, motivation, dedication, and creativity are also considered. “It’s a great thing for the Association to give back to the community and an opportunity for a student to shine,” Skowronski said.
2011 scholarship applications can be found online at www.milwaukeenari.org/nari-foundation.php
The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 800 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.
For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI’s Remodeling Guide,” call (414) 771-4071 or visit the Council’s Web site at www.milwaukeenari.org
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