unCommon Construction Launches New Chapter to Empower High School Students in Minneapolis with the help of Stand Together Foundation

New Orleans-based nonprofit offers high school students a unique alternative to the typical internship program, allowing students to build a house during the school year while developing the soft skills necessary for entering the workforce.

MINNEAPOLIS. (Sept. 7, 2022) Today, unCommon Construction (uCC) announced that it is expanding its footprint into Minneapolis, Minnesota. Founded in 2015, the New Orleans-based nonprofit demonstrates that learning happens everywhere by offering an alternative to typical education programs. unCommon Construction uses an apprenticeship and construction build process to empower youth with the skills, network, resources, and experience to lead the workforce after high school or college.

Since 2020, uCC has partnered with Stand Together Foundation (STF), a national philanthropic organization that partners with social entrepreneurs who empower people to transform their lives and communities. uCC received $150,000 from STF to bring its unique learning approach to more students in Minneapolis.

Traditional education takes a standardized, one-size-fits-all approach that has deemphasized individualized learning, student choice and the trades, while also overemphasizing pathways to four-year degrees. uCC is reimagining student learning and their abilities to discover their own pathway to post-secondary and career success. By incorporating technical and soft skills and the instilling of personal responsibility through work-based learning, uCC challenges the current approach to traditional and top-down K-12 education that leaves students unprepared, unequipped, and unexposed to viable and fulfilling career options after high school.

uCC equips high-school students with hands-on, real-world work experience in the construction field. Through uCC’s paid apprenticeships, students build homes, while acquiring and applying soft skills, math, science, and engineering skills. Students experience the discipline of showing up on time, working on a team, and delivering high-quality work on a construction site. Through more than 100 hours each semester, apprentices develop career awareness and exposure to an alternative career path, technical and soft skills, and leadership abilities through a work-based learning experience in a real-world classroom.

In addition to school credit, students earn hourly wages and an “Equity Award” scholarship that is awarded to them without restriction on how the funds are to be spent. These scholarships are funded through sales of the homes that students build. Graduates who achieve at least 75% attendance earn this award and are encouraged to set their own post-graduation goals and utilize the funds to achieve those goals. In this way, uCC’s leadership prioritizes their students’ choice and demonstrates a belief in people being the best suited to identify their own career and/or post-secondary education pathways.

The following facts illustrate the success of uCC’s model:

  • 100% of students who complete a semester with uCC graduate from high school on time and have continued their education or landed a job within three months.
  • More than 80% of participating apprentices live in low- to moderate-income tract zones or receive free and reduced lunch at school.
  • Approximately 40% of participating apprentices identified as female or non-gender conforming and 80% identified as people of color, and 80% of graduates report that they are industry-bound after high school – representing a younger and more diverse workforce in the construction industry
  • A typical apprentice’s earning potential per semester is $1,000 in pay and $500 in Equity Awards, and approximately 50% of graduates open their first bank account with the money they earned throughout the program.

“When we started building this organization in 2014, we thought there might be a chance our model could be applied beyond New Orleans in locations with similar needs,” said Aaron Frumin, Founder and Executive Director of unCommon Construction. “We’re thrilled and humbled to begin unCommon’s expansion with these first steps in Minneapolis, which is the hometown of our founding Program Manager and a city with whom we share the Mississippi River among so many other things. Over the years, we’ve received countless inquiries about expansion, and we’ve questioned and learned a lot about what it could look like to scale unCommon’s impact in that way. The support and partnership of Stand Together Foundation have been critical elements in the evolution of our vision for that impact at a larger scale. We’re grateful for the way Stand Together Foundation authentically shares that vision and sees the value of unCommon’s unique approach to youth and workforce development.”

“unCommon Construction’s individualized education model proves that empowering young people to learn, including nontraditional pathways, beats a one-size-fits-all approach to education,” said Evan Feinberg, Executive Director of Stand Together Foundation. “Young people can and should learn everywhere, and UnCommon Construction offers the communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills needed to flourish in all kinds of work and life beyond high school. We’re thrilled to help unCommon bring its innovative program to Minneapolis.”

Learn more:

About uCC: “Building Houses. Framing Character.”

unCommon Construction offers a unique alternative to your typical internship for high school students. Its program allows participating students to build a house in a semester, while developing the soft skills necessary for entering the workforce. The internship for high school students not only pays an hourly rate, but a percentage of the proceeds from each sold house is used to award them with an “Equity Award” scholarship for further education and career opportunities. Students learn how to take measurements, read blueprints, and use a variety of tools. They also pick up job-acquisition and retention skills such as communication, responsibility, and critical thinking. Learn more at unCommonConstruction.org.

About Stand Together Foundation:

Stand Together Foundation is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty in America by driving change from within communities. We are building a community of social entrepreneurs who believe in people, work from the bottom up, and unite with anyone to do right. Since 2016, we have committed over $120 million and counting to fuel the innovation of nonprofits throughout the country to build stronger, safer communities where all people can learn, contribute, and realize their full potential. Our goal is to help nonprofit leaders maximize their impact to transform more lives out of poverty. Learn more at StandTogetherFoundation.org.

SOURCE Stand Together Foundation