The National Housing Endowment, which provides grants and other financial assistance to colleges offering housing- and construction-related programs and their students, recently launched a new fundraising campaign called “Support Our Future.” The campaign's goal is to recruit at least 1,000 new donors to support the NAHB Student Chapters program, which currently has more than 4,200 students and faculty participating in 150 chapters across the country.

Preparing For The Future. Ben Hendershot (left) and Brian Roling are two college students who are interning with Washington, D.C-area builders through the NAHB Residential Construction Internship program.
Photos: National Housing Endowment Preparing For The Future. Ben Hendershot (left) and Brian Roling are two college students who are interning with Washington, D.C-area builders through the NAHB Residential Construction Internship program.

The Endowment’s efforts include its Housing Education Leadership Program (HELP), which since its launch in 2006 has provided more than $1.2 million in seed grants to 19 colleges, including this year’s recipients, Pennsylvania State University and Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan., each of which will receive up to $100,000 over the next five years. The institutions will use that money to create, enhance, or further develop programs within their curricula for construction and related courses. The Endowment, according to its website, has also handed out more than $10 million through HELP to qualified students who are being trained to become the next generation of home builders. This summer, two college students, Ben Hendershot and Brian Roling, are interning with two builders through the NAHB Residential Construction Internship in Washington, D.C.

Hendershot, 25, is a Kansas City native who is currently a sophomore at Pittsburg State, where he’s studying residential construction management. Hendershot has been interested in home building since attending vocational school in Olathe, Kan., after which he worked for a while as a remodeler before enlisting in the Marines, where he served for four years. Once he was discharged from the military, Hendershot attended community college and worked as a rough-in carpenter before transferring to Pittsburg State.

Roling, 21, is a Colorado native who is a junior at Colorado State University, where he’s studying construction management and design, with a minor in real estate. Roling says he initially wanted to become an architect but became more enamored of engineering and design once he entered college.

The first two weeks of their internship were spent at NAHB headquarters, where they got a legislative overview and learned about regulatory issues and housing finance. And from late June through mid-August, the interns will get extensive field training. Hendershot will work with Rockville, Md.-based builder Mitchell & Best, while Roling will work with Pulte at its Potomac Yards community in Alexandria, Va. Both say they expect to be working mainly with those builders’ job-site superintendents.

The interns are commuting to their jobs from George Washington University, where the Endowment is covering their housing and parking expenses. It also provides them with a small stipend for other living expenses.

“The internship is a great program,” says Hendershot, whom Builder interviewed on Wednesday. “It goes beyond what we can learn in school.” After he graduates, Hendershot says he’d like to work for a national builder to learn the business and hone his skills, and then become a high-end custom builder. Roling, on the other hand, wants to become a lawyer with an expertise in construction and contract law as a prelude to pursuing a career in building. “There are so many legal issues [in housing], and they are increasing every year,” he explains. Roling thinks a legal education is “vital” to his career track, and that it will also make him a better manager.

Both interns are fully cognizant that they are entering an industry that has been rocked by the recession. But neither is deterred by today’s economy. “I have a lot of friends in this business, and they’ve really gotten hurt by this downturn,” says Hendershot. “But I do believe it’s going to turn around, and you have to find what people want to buy and focus on your business.” Roling thinks the key to success for any future home builder will be “setting yourself apart and finding a market where you can establish yourself. ”

John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.