Constructing an education pipeline to homebuilding

Mead School District, SHBA kick off program by constructing sheds

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-VIRGINIA THOMAS
Mead High School senior Brady Johnson works on a new shed at the high school as part of a new initiative to generate interest in construction careers among students.

A collaborative effort between Mead School District and the Spokane Home Builders Association is working to spark interest in the trades—particularly residential home construction—among middle-school and high-school students.

Joel White, executive officer of the Spokane Home Builders Association, says the organization’s education and workforce committee has been working closely with Mead School District officials to plan and implement curriculum from the Home Builders Institute, the nonprofit partner of the National Association of Home Builders.

The partnership kicked off with an event May 22 and 23 in which teams of students from Mead and Mt. Spokane high schools worked alongside local builders and subcontractors at Mead High School to build two sheds. One shed will be used for storage for Mead School District. The other will be raffled off to raise funds for the residential construction program.

“Our members are committing not just to this two-day event, but also to maintain that relationship,” White says. “They’ll be sitting on an advisory board, coming into the classrooms, talking with students about some of the issues they’re facing in the real world, and helping instructors with understanding how to teach with what happens in the real world, not just from what’s in a textbook.”

The curriculum will cover the basics of carpentry and is project based so that students frequently will use the skills they learn, White says.

Doug Edmonson, director of career and technical education and technology at Mead School District, says he hopes the collaboration will revive shop classes within the district.

“Ten-plus years ago, we shut down all of our shops districtwide and turned them into robotics labs and other things,” he says.

Edmonson says the training program was selected for a $17,000 grant from the Home Builders Institute. The funding will be used to pay for orientation costs, curriculum licensing, teacher training, and site visits, he says.

The plan is to introduce the curriculum to seventh- and eighth-grade students at all three Mead School District middle schools in the 2021-22 school year, he says. When they move on to high school, those students will create demand at the high school level for the Home Builders Institute’s Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training curriculum.

“We’d then work to create a direct conduit for our students to exit with some type of certification,” Edmonson says. “We’ve been talking with the homebuilders association about how our kids can get Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour certification. This is just the tip of the iceberg of where I see this going in the next five years.”

White says other educators have been in conversation with the Spokane Home Builders Association, including those at Spokane Public Schools, Central Valley School District, and Valley Christian Schools.

“For years, schools talked about college as the only path,” White says. “Now, we’re starting to see that for a lot of individuals, college isn’t right for them, and they can have a great life and a great career working in construction. It doesn’t mean you can’t go to college at a later date in your life, if that’s something you want to pursue. But you can go straight into a career, have no debt, and start making money on day one.”

White says he hopes students will come to understand that residential construction is a viable path to business ownership.

“If you learn the skills and take some time to learn about business and starting a business, you can become your own contractor very simply,” he says.

The shed-building event at Mead High School was intended to spark student interest in residential construction, White says.

“We’re doing fairly simple sheds, just to get them to understand this process. It’s a quick build,” he says. “If you’re a contractor or subcontractor, every day you get to see the results of your work. That’s what we’re hoping these students can see; in two days, they’ll see the results of their work. That can bring great satisfaction, to see your project come to fruition.”

More than a dozen sponsors donated building supplies and gear, including tool belts, hammers, and tape measures, which the students took home with them at the end of the weekend.

White says the event also provided a hiring opportunity. Of the 14 students who completed the two-day project, at least three left with job offers.

“You can see it in the housing prices right now. We don’t have enough workers in industry,” White says. “This is an investment in the future of our industry.”

Edmonson says career counselors at both of the district’s high schools helped in guiding students to the event.

“They’ve done a lot of legwork in working with these students to know who might be a good fit for this,” Edmonson says. “For me, it’s about the opportunity for these kids to see other options and not be embarrassed that they’re not going to college. We have to change that narrative, and this is one way we’re doing it.”

Edmonson says he’s planning another shed-construction event for Nov. 10.

Virginia Thomas
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Reporter Virginia Thomas has worked at the Journal since 2017 and covers the health care industry. As a reporter, she loves learning about Spokane's many growing industries. She enjoys travelling with her husband, snuggling with her cats, and cross stitching.

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