Cox, Gels and Gray all said even for students who don’t pursue a career in the field, having some basic knowledge of construction will help later in life when owning a home.
“I could really see where this would be something that would be advantageous to any young person going forward in life,” Gray said. “If you don’t know how to take care of things yourself then you’re going to have to pay somebody to come in and do it. … So not only could they use some of these skills themselves, but some of these jobs are great-paying jobs.”
Raymon Rogers-Casando, left, and Logan Robinson work on a wood-working project
during carpentry class at the Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky.
Gels said the program had been a dream of Boone County Superintendent Dr. Randy Poe for a little more than a decade and some of the waivers the district received through being a district of innovation enabled them to pursue it.
Boone County Schools and the Home Builders Association of northern Kentucky each received grant money last spring to help expand HBA’s Enzweiler Building Institute and also expand to a second facility in Alexandria.
Currently, students can take one year of courses in the Homebuilders/Construction program, but the plan is to add an option for students to continue in the program for a second year to earn co-op credit.
The program was initially funded with a $20,000 grant from the Partners of Competitive Workforce and received grant money for this year from PCW and the R.C. Durr Foundation.
The program has two instructors, whose salaries are paid by the HBA, and about 75-80 students, with the districts paying tuition for their students to be in the program.
Gels said the materials can be expensive and he hopes in the future that local businesses will buy the materials in exchange for students tackling a building project for them.
Last year, students built small model houses that firefighters burned to study how the fire moved through houses. Students also worked with the local parks and recreation department last year, and this spring will build a playground for a Boone County day care center.
“The main thing I’m trying to do is just get them exposed and talk about what it’s like working in the trades,” said Kevin McKnight, one of the program’s instructors. “Some of (the students) you can tell are natural-born craftsmen. It’s fun identifying those kids and encouraging them to pursue these industries that are a great way to make a living.”
McKnight, who also teaches HBA’s adult evening classes, said six students from last year are now in his evening program.
Gels said he isn’t aware of any other districts doing a construction training program. He said it requires the right partner to make it successful “but I think other districts are crazy not to pursue this. Even if the industry isn’t there, what you can do for yourself with this kind of education is transformative.”