BuildStrong New Orleans Celebrates 2 Years of Building Futures!

Have you ever thought about a career in construction?  If you’re looking for a good-paying job with a bright future, this might be the perfect path for you! The HBI BuildStrong Academy of Greater New Orleans is celebrating its 2nd anniversary, and they’ve already helped hundreds of young people just like you get started in this exciting field.

Check out how it all started:

Building Skills, Building Futures 

BuildStrong Academy knows that young people want jobs that pay well and offer a chance to grow. That’s why we offer free training programs that teach the valuable skills needed in the construction industry. In just two years, BuildStrong Academy GNO has trained over 400 students, with more than 214 graduating and moving on to successful careers. That’s a huge accomplishment in building futures! 

Supporters Make a Difference

BuildStrong Academy of Greater New Orleans was founded by Brittany and Drew Brees and the Brees Dream Foundation in collaboration with the BuildStrong Academy.

Building a strong program takes more than hammers and nails. BuildStrong Academy GNO is grateful for Drew Brees and the Brees Dream Foundation‘s partnership and financial support. Together with over 120 other employers and community partners, they are making a real difference in the lives of New Orleans youth. 

Learn more:

More Than Just Training

BuildStrong Academy GNO goes beyond just teaching skills. They understand that success requires extra support. That’s why they offer wraparound services to their students. These services include things like resume building, interview preparation, and even career fairs! Students also get to hear from industry speakers, network with professionals and benefit from mentor presentations.

  • Resume Building
  • Interview Prep
  • Industry Speakers
  • Networking 
  • Career Fairs
  • Mentor Presentations
  • And more 

This kind of all-around support helps graduates feel confident and prepared to hit the ground running in their new careers.

Success By The Numbers

Since its establishment in 2022, BuildStrong Academy GNO has garnered significant achievements, enabling numerous students to undergo exceptional training and secure fulfilling career opportunities.

  • 386 – Enrollments
  • 351 – Graduates
  • 756 – Certificates Issued
  • 89% – Placement 
  • $22.75 – Average Starting Wage

Building a Brighter Future for New Orleans

BuildStrong Academy GNO’s success relies on the support of the local community. Donations and investments from New Orleans residents and businesses allow HBI to tailor its programs to the city’s specific needs. This ensures that graduates have the skills and knowledge that local employers are looking for.

Thank You To Our Networking and Employer Partners!

  • Jefferson Chamber of Commerce JEDCO
  • Kenner Business Association
  • City of Kenner
  • Building Trades Unions, including carpenters, electricians, boilermakers, and operating engineers
  • Jefferson Parish Workforce Development Board
  • HBA of Greater New Orleans Clement Building Company
  • Gallo Mechanical
  • 1st Lake Properties
  • The Urban League of Louisiana
  • Gulf Coast Bank and Trust
  • Vessel Marketing
  • New Orleans Area,  
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Canon Medical, Construction/ 
  • Wirth Properties
  • Kiewit/TIC
  • JOB1

Want to Get Involved?

If you’re interested in a career in construction, check out the HBI website

HBI training programs serve veterans, transitioning military, middle, high school and college students, displaced workers, underserved communities, justice-involved youth and adults and anyone interested in a career in the trades. A donation to support HBI programs can make a big impact on a student’s life. 

With continued community support, BuildStrong Academy can keep changing lives and building a stronger future for New Orleans!

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Contacts Us

Vice President of Workforce Training & Employment
Mario joined HBI as a Regional Career Development Coordinator of HBI’s Military Services in 2019 and was promoted to Associate Vice President of WTE Community & Corrections Programs in 2022.
Now serving as Vice president of WTE (2024), he oversees the daily operations of HBI’s WTE Community & Corrections, Military Services, & Academies programs, working with partners to advance HBI’s expansion and enhance job placement opportunities for graduates. Mario serves as the liaison between HBI and external stakeholders to include military installations. He ensures successful outcomes for HBI graduates from transitioning service members & veterans to justice involved adults & youths. Internally, he provides strategic operational perspective to HBI’s senior leadership team.
Prior to joining HBI, Mario served for 21 years in the U.S. Army across multiple locations globally & nationally and has an MBA from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN.
Mario resides in Tennessee with his wife and children and spends time in Texas where his mother, adult children, and grandchildren reside. He enjoys the outdoors and serving in his community. 
Executive Officer of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts

Joseph F. Landers, 71, is the Executive Officer of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts having assumed that role in 2018 with a mandate from the Board of Directors to harmonize the five MA local associations, increase communications from the state to the membership, increase the public profile of the association, create a path to financial stability and elevate the states lobbying efforts. Prior to taking on the challenging state association role, Joe was Chief Executive Officer and founder of Customized Structures Inc., a custom manufacturer of single-family, multi-family and commercial modular and panelized structures which began operations in 1984. Joe has been involved in the building industry, both site-built and factory-built, since 1973 and has worked in all phases of construction from development through design and production including on site management and sales. Customized Structures produced on average 330 single family homes per year, had an employee base as high as 180 and was known as the innovator in the production and design of modular components.


After the sale of Customized Structures Inc. to a private equity firm in 2003 Joe remained on the Board of Directors of the Company and functioned as a consultant to the CEO. He further took on the role of helping failing building systems companies return to profitability and successfully oversaw the sale of those companies. Mr. Landers has lectured frequently on the benefits and utilization of systems-built construction to building professionals around the country and has utilized his substantial professional and industry background to provide consultation services to both national and foreign companies interested in the processes and pitfalls of building and developing utilizing building systems components.

Joe attended Northeastern University and St. Anselm’s College graduating with a B.S. in 1972. 

Joe has been a member of the National Association of Home Builders since 1974. He is past president of two local Home Builders Associations and has served two terms as President of the  State of NH Home Builders Association. Joe is also a past president of the Modular Building  Systems Council of the NAHB, has been Chairman of the National Building Systems Council (BSC)  and has served five terms as a Trustee of the BSC during which time he created the BSC logo and  wrote the brochure “Most Frequently Asked Questions about Modular Homes”. 

In 1989, Joe received the National Pacesetter Award in recognition of his outstanding leadership  and contribution to the housing industry and in 1991 was awarded the title of Builder of the Year  by the Home Builders Association of N.H. In 1992 he was appointed by the Governor to the NH  Board of Fire Control within the Department of Safety and since then was reappointed three times.  He has served as a member on the State of New Hampshire Building Code Review Board and was  appointed by the Governor of NH to the Shore Land Protection Commission. Joe was selected to  receive the 2000 S. A. Walters Chairman’s Award, the premier award in the U.S. Systems Built  Housing Industry and was installed to the New Hampshire Housing Hall of Fame for his significant  and lasting contributions to the housing industry in the State of New Hampshire.  

Joe is a Senior Life Director of the National Association of Home Builders; he is served six terms on the NAHB Budget & Finance Committee serving as Vice Chair for four of those years, he has served  as Chairman of the Resolutions Committee, the International Housing Committee and the Building  Products Issues Committee of NAHB serving on the NAHB Executive Committee multiple times. 

In 2001 Joe was elected an Area Vice President of the National Association of Home Builders  representing builders through out the northeast. 

Joe is active in his community having served as finance chairmen of his church, is a member of the  International Order of Odd Fellows, and has served on multiple boards and committees on a  volunteer basis.  

Joe and his wife, Denise, reside in Plymouth, MA, they have two children, Jessica and Brad and two  grandchildren, Lily and Jack ages 13 and 11.

Seth Appleton
President of U.S. Mortgage Insurers

The Honorable Seth Appleton is President of U.S. Mortgage Insurers. In this role, he leads USMI’s efforts to enable sustainable access to affordable mortgage credit for borrowers while protecting taxpayers. Seth previously served as President of MISMO, the real estate finance industry’s standards organization. Prior to that, Seth served as the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),
a position for which he was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate. In addition to his service as Assistant Secretary, Seth concurrently served as the Principal Executive Vice President of Ginnie Mae, a government corporation guaranteeing the timely payment of
principal and interest on more than $2 trillion in mortgage-backed securities.

Before joining HUD, Seth worked on Capitol Hill, including serving as Chief of Staff for U.S. Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer for more than eight years. A native of Missouri, Seth is a graduate of Stanford University and is a co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Council.

Zach Harris Story Card - HBI Build Strong Academy New Orleans Graduate