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HEART Building Dubuque is building workforce development and economic vibrancy by replicating the successful HEART Youth model. Expanded programming serves adults with barriers to employment. Our construction and cabinetry pathways empower participants to take part in projects that revitalize and invest in our urban core through gut-rehabilitation and restoration projects. Our Transitional Employment Pathway provides training and guidance in career and life planning, while helping participants build a diverse and transferrable skillset in maintenance, groundskeeping, hospitality, and more, on the Four Mounds site.



Andrew spent a year at Four Mounds. During his time here he successfully completed the construction and cabinetry certificates through Northeast Iowa Community College. While in those programs he also earned his first aid, CPR, flagger, and heavy equipment operator.


In the Fall of 2019, Four Mounds expanded programming to include adults, resulting in HEART Build Dubuque. Four pathways have evolved in HEART Build Dubuque: Construction, Cabinetry, Home Modifications, and the Transitional Employment Pathway, to serve adults with barriers to employment. All students receive paid, hands-on training, financial literacy, soft skills training, and have access to transportation and food resources.


Our target population includes underserved and unemployed populations including but not limited to high school dropouts, youth aging out of foster care, single parents, adults living in poverty, and individuals with other barriers to employment who are working with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services to gain employability skills and gainful employment.


Build Dubuque—Construction

This pathway consists of two programs through NICC, a short-term certificate (about four months) or a long-term diploma (approximately one year). Once students receive basic training, including OSHA, tool use and safety, first-aid, CPR, and basic math (approximately three weeks), they are hired by Four Mounds to complete the rest of their training on an authentic construction job site.

Build Dubuque—Cabinetry

Students take this class in the Four Mounds Woodshop. It is a short-term certificate program in partnership with NICC where students also receive paid, hands-on training. Students are introduced to the basics of cabinet making, casework, and finish carpentry skills. Additionally, they are introduced to tools of the trade from hand tools to basics of CAD and the CNC router which is the current trend in the cabinet making industry.


Build Dubuque—Home Modifications

Students on this pathway are graduates of our youth or adult construction programs that are not quite ready for full-time employment. They work with a job coach to complete home modifications for local, income qualifying seniors so they can safely age in place. Since spring of 2022 our team has completed modifications for more than 15 homeowners.

Build Dubuque—Transitional Employment

Students on this pathway are 18 to 24 years old with significant barriers in life and work. The uniqueness of our site allows for incredibly diverse skill building opportunities for students on this pathway while also providing a beautiful, healing place for the holistic program components carried out each day. Students on the TEP with a job coach to develop a diverse skillset from woodworking, to landscaping and cooking, to building maintenance while also working with a mentor to set and attain personal and career related goals. The duration of this program varies based on individual need and typically lasts for about one year.

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by the numbers


The graduation rate for students in HEART Building Dubuque is 92%.


44% of HEART Building Dubuque students have been involved in the criminal justice system.


76% of individuals served in HEART Building Dubuque are in poverty. Following training, this percent is reduced to only 6%.


HEART Building Dubuque has served over 100 students since the Fall of 2019.


HEART Building Dubuque—Construction & Cabinetry students on average enter the program with an annual income of $15,300. Upon completion, and employment in entry level positions, their average annual income increases to $38,000 per year. That is an increase of over 277%!


HEART Building Dubuque is comprised of 27% female students.


The Four Mounds Foundation was formed in 1987, following Elizabeth Burden’s donation of the property to the city of Dubuque in 1982 for educational and recreational purposes. During that five year time period, many of the buildings on the site had fallen into disrepair. Plans were in place to raze the buildings, because of the nationwide economic recession and lack of funding to complete necessary repairs. Thus, the Four Mounds Foundation was formed to carry out Elizabeth Burden’s wishes. The founders of the foundation were creative, and addressed workforce development and resilience-building needs for individuals and the wider community through the challenging work of restoration. Beginning in 1995, the foundation served students at risk through the Youth Empowerment Services (YES) program. Students in the YES program worked with job coaches to restore 17 buildings on the property. The restoration took several years, and the buildings and grounds have now been restored to their original state. Today, the grounds serve as a city park, an inn and conference center, and a hub for vocational training programs for youth and adults, as well as a summer day camp for community youth, many of whom live in poverty.

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