Through its partnership with YouthBuild USA, this 350-year-old building materials company is committed to building affordable, energy-efficient green homes in low-income communities. At Building our Future Together, employees and at-risk youth work side-by-side in their community.

The Saint-Gobain Corporation Foundation has granted $1.35 million to this program since 2010. The company has completed builds in Canton, OH; Worcester, MA; Schenectady, NY; and Philadelphia, PA.

Sustainable lessons

“The building material industry is changing,” said Carmen Ferrigno, vice president of communications for Saint-Gobain. Building our Future Together teaches future generations about sustainable building through a combination of classroom and hands-on training.

“YouthBuild is an excellent program,” said Greg Silvestri, president of CertainTeed Corporation, a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain. The program teaches students technical skills and presents them a certificate of competency. “It prepares them for their first job.”

Silvestri said insulation contractors support the program. Brandon Butler, a YouthBuild graduate from Philadelphia, was recently hired as a qualified insulation installer by West Chester Insulation, Inc., thanks to Come Together, an online job board and training center recently unveiled by CertainTeed, Saint-Gobain’s construction materials brand sold in North America.

New demand

There has been resurgence in manufacturing, with a real demand for things invented and made in this country. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, manufacturing accounted for 10 percent of the U.S. market; today it accounts for about 12 percent.

“There is an optimism that has not been present in a long time,” said Gardner Carrick, vice president of strategic initiatives at The Manufacturing Institute.

Sterling Major takes a sledgehammer to the door of 843 Emmett Street signifying the kick-off of the green home renovation project in 2011.

At the same time, there has been a decrease in the number of technical training programs and apprenticeship opportunities. Companies need to reach out to educational institutions through work, study and internship programs and offer experiential learning opportunities.

Leading by example

Ferrigno agrees more businesses need to participate in programs like this. Businesses, nonprofits and government sectors need to come together and actively engage in rebuilding the middle-class by providing high quality manufacturing jobs.

With new emerging technologies, scientific and technical expertise is often needed. The company has made a two-year $150,000 commitment to Philadelphia US2020 Coalition, a national program that aims to increase the number of girls and boys engaged in STEM in seven cities nationwide.

Ferrigno said you have to reach out to women as early as grammar school and show them manufacturing is a viable career path.

“It exposes students to a world they never knew existed,” said Dina Silver Pokedoff, senior manager of branding and communication at Saint-Gobain.

“We have access to the next generation of thinkers,” added Ferrigno. “This program puts a face on the future.”