Gaining Skills, Rebuilding Neighborhoods

posted on Monday, November 9, 2020 in  College News

Maryam Moshood had never considered learning a construction trade prior to entering the WE Build Waterloo program. When she saw a flyer for the free pre-apprenticeship, her sister encouraged her to give it a try. 

“When I came in, I thought I would probably be done after a week, but I found myself enjoying the program,” Moshood said. 

WE Build Waterloo is an initiative of Hawkeye Community College in partnership with One City United, a local nonprofit organization focused on connecting people and resources to address the underlying issues related to poverty in Waterloo. Hawkeye started developing a pre-apprenticeship program to teach young people construction trades about five years ago, around the same time Dean Feltes, One City United founder and executive director, was researching community needs. Among the top priorities identified: the need for quality housing.

“We know the power of homeownership and the hope it brings into a family’s life,” Feltes said.

Holly Johnson, Hawkeye’s executive director of institutional advancement, serves on the board for One City United and helped connect the nonprofit with the college. One City United purchased the empty home at 414 E. First Street, and the first group of Hawkeye students started work in June. 

“The program is designed to help students figure out what their next step is, and that can be very different student to student,” said Val Peterson, workforce development coordinator for Hawkeye and IowaWORKS. Using the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) core curriculum, students learn basic safety, introduction to construction math, introduction to hand tools, introduction to power tools, construction drawings, basic rigging, basic communication skills, basic employability skills, and introduction to materials handling. 

Each student earns an industry-recognized NCCER credential, as well as OSHA 10-hour certification. 

“You learn and you learn, and it’s with you for life,” Moshood said. 

Though some time is spent in a classroom, the majority of the 12-week program is spent on site, working with construction manager and jobsite instructor Mike Hayworth. The house, which once housed a beauty parlor, is more than 120 years old and has been unoccupied for several years. After Moshood’s group finished its 12-week stint, another group of students began the second phase. 

“When complete, the home will be sold to a deserving family who couldn’t necessarily qualify to buy a home through traditional means,” Feltes said.

As for the students, their time in the pre-apprenticeship helped them not only gain new skills, but decide on a career path. For Moshood, that meant taking a job with a local construction company and beginning a registered apprenticeship program. 

“It has been amazing to watch this first cohort be so committed to the program and ultimately to their future,” Feltes said. “Every time I was at the house the students were working, smiling, and enjoying the process. I know many have already had job offers. It has been extremely beneficial for students and the neighborhood.”

For more information about joining the next session or helping support WE Build Waterloo with donations of materials, time, or funds, email, visit, or call 319-291-2705, Ext. 41317. 

This workforce product was funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. The product was created by the recipient and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department of Labor makes no guarantees, warranties, or assurances of any kind, express or implied, with respect to such information, including any information on the linked sites and including, but not limited to, accuracy of the information or its completeness, timeliness, usefulness, adequacy, continued availability, or ownership. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it.


  1. Apprenticeship
  2. Business and Community Education
  3. Community Partners
  4. construction trades
  5. IowaWORKS
  6. One City United
  7. WE Build Waterloo
  8. workforce development
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