The sheds built in the Home Depot parking lot this week were both a donation and a hands-on education.

Dozens of high school and college students took part in this year’s Construction Combine, a two-day introduction to the trade programs organized by Home Depot and the College of Eastern Idaho. Teams of students worked with professional builders who volunteered time to introduce them to different technical skills and help build 10 sheds that will be donated to local veterans.

“It’s an opportunity for us to get seen by people in the field who might want to hire us, and we can learn skills we may not have known otherwise,” said Alissa Brewer, a junior at Technical Careers High School.

Brewer transferred from Bonneville High School to the Technical Careers High School for her junior year to get a more hands-on education amid COVID-19. She got invested in the construction field while studying there and was excited by the chance to pick up experience during the Construction Combine.

The combine in Idaho Falls is an expansion of the event that Idaho State University recently began offering. CEI first held the program in 2019 but canceled the one scheduled last year because of the pandemic.

“We do it to help our community get more involved in helping veterans and getting work experience,” said Matt Bates, trade program manager for CEI.

High schoolers from as far away as Ashton and Blackfoot attended the Construction Combine. The event was also open to college students and anyone over the age of 15 who wanted to pick up tricks of the trades.

The Idaho Department of Labor projected in 2014 that construction would be the fastest-growing job field in the state over the next decade. There is still a high demand for these positions at the moment as the regional population continues to grow, said Sandra Petrovic from the Eastern Idaho Home Builders Association.

“East Idaho needs skilled workers and interested students to join the workforce. This helps make sure they aren’t missing out on the opportunity,” Petrovic said.

On the first day, students broke off into small groups and rotated between stations on plumbing, electricity, masonry, carpentry and other construction skills. The end of Wednesday and all of Thursday were spent assembling the sheds.

Home Depot worked with the American Legion post in Idaho Falls to identify 10 veterans who could use the sheds built during the combine. The sheds with shingled roofs will go to selected veterans in town, while the ones with metal roofs are able to be transported farther out.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.