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Friday, 09 May 2014 00:00

High school students gain practice for career, life on home construction site

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Mack Straight, a junior at Parker High School, does some drilling work to install a door in a student build home at 3419 N. Wright Road in Janesville. About 20 Parker and Craig high school students are participating in the advanced construction class in which they work with local contractors to build a house. Mack Straight, a junior at Parker High School, does some drilling work to install a door in a student build home at 3419 N. Wright Road in Janesville. About 20 Parker and Craig high school students are participating in the advanced construction class in which they work with local contractors to build a house. Dennis Hines/staff

JANESVILLE MESSENGER -- Even though Colin Hirsch plans to study criminal justice when he graduates from high school, he still feels the skills he is learning in his building trades class will be useful in the future.

Hirsch, a Craig High School senior, is one of 20 students participating in the advanced construction class, which is offered to Craig and Parker high school juniors and seniors. As part of the course, the students work with local contractors to build a home.

“I’ve always done a little bit of work like this, and I’ve always wanted to do more and learn how to do everything (related to home construction),” Hirsch said. “It’s a great class for that.”

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The students are building a home at 3419 N. Wright Road in Janesville. The 1,742-square-foot home has three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a three-car garage and should be complete by the end of the school year.

“I’ve learned all the different stuff that goes into building a house,” said Mack Straight, a Parker junior. “I’m thinking about working as an electrician. I’ve enjoyed all the different things I’ve learned and all the different things I’ve gotten taught how to do.

“I’ve always been interested in this kind of stuff and I wanted to learn more about it.”

Participating in the course is like working at a job, Straight said.

“You’ve got to show up on time and do what you’re supposed to do. You learn from that,” he said.

The students work on the framing, siding, roofing and trimming work of the home, as well as installing doors and windows.

“It’s ... pretty much learning everything from top to bottom on how to build a house,” Hirsch said.

The students started working on the home, priced at $199,900, last fall. Proceeds from the sale will be used for scholarships and the home building project for the 2014-’15 school year.

Students receive a grade and high school credit for participating in the program.

“A lot of (the grade) is how they perform on the job site,” said Joe Kruse, advanced construction instructor. “There’s some testing but not a whole lot. The majority of it is based on job skills and how they follow directions and how they work together with each other.”

The program was started about 20 years ago by Habitat for Humanity and taken over by the South Central Wisconsin Builders Association about eight years ago.

“(Habitat for Humanity) said they could no longer do the program and asked us if we could take it over,” said Carol Engebretson, executive officer for SCWBA.

The builders association selects a location for the project each year. The builders association is currently looking for a site for the 2014-’15 school year, Engebretson said.

“We have a committee that selects a site based on location and price,” Engebretson said. “We try to choose a plan that the students can handle but is also challenging enough for them to learn. We try to build a home that’s based on current trends. We try to build a home that’s desirable and dependable.”

Students have the option of attending a morning or afternoon session. Kruse said the class helps students prepare for a career in the building trades.

“It gives them opportunities for career exploration, because they get to work side by side with other trades,” Kruse said. “So if a kid comes into the class and they’re not really sure what they want to do after high school, they get to see what a framer does, and they get to do some framing or they get to do some electrical work. They get exposure to all the trades and obviously they learn building skills.”

Kruse said some students find jobs in the building trades after graduating from high school. Others decide not to seek employment in the building trades, but they learn skills  they can use for the rest of their lives.

“There’s a couple of kids this year that we have already placed with contractors as soon as they graduate,” Kruse said. “Some of them go on to four-year colleges. Some of them don’t do anything with the trades, but they still have the knowledge base to do something for themselves in the future if they want.”

Engebretson said several students who have taken the course have found jobs in the area.

“It’s a huge benefit for the students,” Engebretson said. “It gives them an opportunity to learn what the building trades are all about.”

Engebretson said the program also helps local contractors find quality employees.

“It helps fill a shortage of workers in the building trades,” Engebretson said. “During the downturn in the economy in 2008, a lot of people left the industry, and now there’s a shortage of workers.

“This program helps fill that gap.”

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