A skilled workforce and limited housing availability are ongoing challenges in Southeast Iowa. In December 2020, the Ottumwa Community School District (OCSD) and Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) began planning a project that would provide OHS students with technical skills and experiential learning opportunities to improve both issues in Ottumwa.

Group gathered behind Construction sign.
Leaders from IHCC, OCSD, and Legacy Foundation gather at a groundbreaking ceremony held on 7/27/2021 at the site of the first home to be built by the Construction Technology Program.

Beginning August 23rd, 2021, up to 30 high school juniors and seniors will earn college credit through the new Construction Technology Program. Students will attend either morning or afternoon courses to gain technical skills and participate in hands-on experiential learning opportunities while constructing a new home in Ottumwa. Students who complete the program will graduate with both a high school diploma and an Indian Hills Construction Technology Diploma, allowing them to enter the workforce with a high-quality, in-demand skill immediately.

“Each day, we strive to be the best in all we do. Being the best means working in partnership with our community partners IHCC, Legacy Foundation, and Regional Housing Trust Fund. Together we saw an opportunity to provide our students real-world learning and working experience, an invaluable chance to earn college and high school credits, develop essential and high-paying work skills, all the while building quality and affordable homes for our community. Our vision is to build five homes over the next five years,” Michael McGrory, Superintendent of Ottumwa Schools, said. The to-be-built homes feature a 3-bed, 2-bath layout with a full basement and a two-car attached garage. Students will construct the homes on five lots owned by OCSD adjacent to Ottumwa’s newest and largest elementary on Traxler Drive. “We hope these beautiful lots and homes next to Liberty elementary school will be attractive to families,” McGrory said.

Leaders in hardhats with shovels

The Centerville High School construction program, which began as a partnership with IHCC in the early 1970s, serves as the model for the new OHS program. Ty Ware, who previously taught at the IHCC Centerville campus, will be the lead instructor for the OHS program. Jon Dormant, Construction Technology Program Director for IHCC, will serve as Project Manager. IHCC will continue to fund both positions.

Groundbreaking ceremony

“The Legacy Foundation and the Ottumwa Community School District have been partners throughout the life of the Foundation. Over the past ten years, the Foundation has provided nearly $3 million in support to the district. Kelly Genners, Legacy Foundation President/CEO, said, “From a $1.3 million contribution to the district’s 21st Century Technology initiative in 2013 to our gifts to Pickwick Early Childhood Center and SparkTank/Career Campus, we continue to be proud of the strides OCSD is making. Construction Technology program is in perfect alignment with two of our strategic priority areas – “Housing Availability” and “Education Opportunities.” We are excited to see the opportunities this program provides for students to learn in-demand job skills and the benefits it will have on our community’s housing and job market.”

The Legacy Foundation and the AHEAD Regional Housing Trust have each committed $100,000 to fund the program. This funding will act as a revolving fund using the proceeds from each sale to support costs for the following year’s house.