Eye-catching remodeling exhibits weren’t the only attention-getters at the 40th Annual National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Home Improvement Show, held in March at Cleveland’s Huntington Convention Center. While adults perused dozens of displays featuring design trends, kids in attendance made a beeline for the three playhouses, one of them designed and built by 30 junior and 20 senior high school students enrolled in the Building Trades Academy at Lorain County JVS.

“Students in our carpentry, heating and air conditioning, masonry and industrial electricity programs put their creative and collaborative minds together,” says Building Trades Academy supervisor Michelle McClintic, “and the result is extraordinary.”

In addition to a stone facade, the exterior features roof decking fashioned to resemble hand-carved logs. But the 8-by-12, pint-sized homestead is no “Little House on the Prairie.” Walk through the Dutch door and enter an interior filled with thoroughly modern touches, including heating and air conditioning that originates from a unit installed on the roof, electricity and LED lighting, USB plugs and a Bluetooth sound system. A ladder leads up to the loft that’s a cozy nook for reading, napping or spending time with friends.

“The best part of this project was that it brought four different groups of students together,” says McClintic. “They learned how to coordinate plans and communicate with each other in order to be productive in the workplace. These soft skills are so essential for becoming a great employee, and I love that fact that the project gave them an opportunity to continue developing and strengthening them.”

Mark Maltry agrees. An owner of JEMM Construction in Painesville Township, he’s just completed his term as president of the Greater Cleveland Chapter of NARI, and is now chairperson of the board. As the only nonprofit trade association dedicated exclusively to the professional remodeling industry, NARI is made up of 58 chapters around the country known for being the best resources for knowledge and training in the remodeling industry.

“One of my goals as president over the last two years was to support and promote workforce development through our association,” Maltry says. “I contacted Lorain County JVS, Auburn Career Center and Medina County Career Center and broached the idea of each school building something for the show.”

Maltry visited each school to talk with students about size specifications (each playhouse needed to be small enough to be easily and safely transported to the show), brainstorm about blueprints and coach them on design nuances. He also procured donations of materials needed for the playhouses from NARI vendors.

“Before I personally met with students, they knew about the project, were excited about it and already had ideas rolling in their minds,” Maltry says. “I simply supported them by being their guide. The overall look was really up to them.”

At the conclusion of the show, the three playhouses were auctioned off to the highest bidder, with proceeds going toward scholarships for students involved in the project who wish to pursue careers in home remodeling.

“As remodelers and builders, the more opportunities we can create for students, the more we can help them build the confidence in their abilities that will lead to a stronger workforce,” Maltry says.