Construction Technology and Habitat for Humanity: Partnering for the Future

By Randall Hust
Career and Technical Education (CTE) has become a focus on many campuses across the U.S., and for good reason.
An aging workforce and a shortage of new inductees into the trade and industrial fields are combining into the perfect storm. Industries across the nation are already experiencing a starving market of skilled workers, driving production costs up and extending deadlines on jobs that simply cannot be manned by the current workforce.
At the Byron Martin Advanced Technology Center, a part of Lubbock Independent School District, students are gaining valuable information to help them transition from the classroom to the jobsite. They have one unique advantage over many programs which teach theory with limited “hands-on” activity. These students actually construct a house.

From the Classroom to the House

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 12.51.51 PMFor the last 15 years, the Byron Martin ATC has partnered with Habitat for Humanity and the Helen Jones Foundation to construct a three-bedroom, 1,200 square foot home. The home is constructed in the back lot, directly behind the Construction Technology lab. Over the course of the school year, students follow each phase of construction, from surveying the land to framing the walls to installing the roof. The home is built on temporary stem walls in order to be moved to its permanent location over the summer.
With the exception of being built on a temporary foundation, the process is very similar to a typical residential home construct. Students learn to read and interpret a set of plans, which are provided by Habitat for Humanity of Lubbock. They learn the basic elements of surveying in order to analyze the area for the build and layout the building. With grade stakes in place and string lines marking the soon-to-be perimeter of the building, the Construction Technology students begin to frame the foundation and subfloor. As the last shingles are nailed into place, these young men and women are able to step back at the end of the day and say, “Wow – we built this!”
Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 12.51.40 PMBuilding upon the knowledge gained in Construction Technology, the Advanced Construction Technology students not only assist with the most complicated aspects of the framing process, they also have the opportunity to design and build the millwork for the home. These students learn the basic elements of finish carpentry and cabinetmaking, and put those skills to use to aid in the finish out of the home after it’s permanent placement.
All of the students involved in both programs learn valuable skills in the construction trades, and many go on to compete in SkillsUSA, the national student organization for CTE students. They compete in competitions such as Carpentry, Cabinetmaking and Teamworks, a contest in which they apply all the skills of framing, plumbing, electrical and masonry to construct an 8-by-8 mock home in only two days.

The Lasting Impact

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 12.52.18 PMThe hands-on, real world application that our students obtain through this program is invaluable, but the real teaching comes in something that has been lost in our society over the years. With the decline of young people entering the skilled trades, coupled with the attrition of those retiring and leaving the same fields, intangible things such as craftsmanship and pride in one’s work have faded.
Our students are taught that we each work hard, all day every day, and together we can and will produce a home built with excellence, care and pride that will hear laughter and see young boys and girls grow to be the next leaders of our community.
There is a weightiness in the knowledge that each nail you drive, each board you cut, will provide a basic need we often take for granted to a family that could not otherwise enjoy such comfort.
Though the lack of skilled tradesman and a growing economy may be coming together to create the perfect storm, the marriage of the Construction Technology students, ATC and Habitat for Humanity may be one of the solutions to stem the tide. The ideals of “excellence” and “professionalism” that the students are taught, as well as respect for one another, transfer into the walls and ceilings of much more than just a building built by kids – it’s a home built by a community of tomorrow’s craftsman.
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Randall Hust is a construction technology teacher at the Lubbock Independent School District in Texas, and a multimedia curriculum collaborator for CEV Multimedia. Follow him on Twitter: @LubbockISD.

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