Flathead High, Local Businesses Team Up For Student Build

School construction class will begin work on a full-size home on the outskirts of Kalispell on Sept. 1

By Justin Franz
Flathead student build. Courtesy rendering

More than two-dozen Flathead High School students are trading in their books and notepads for hammers and nails this fall as part of the school’s new construction class. But these students won’t be busy working in the school’s shop; they’ll be in the field building a full-size house on the outskirts of Kalispell.

School officials say the class will give students valuable skills to enter the workforce after graduation without having to go to college.

“They will get to see every aspect of a home construction project,” said vocational instructor Brock Anderson.

The class is part of a collaboration between Flathead School District 5, Western Building Center, Hammerquist Casalegno LLC, Glacier Bank, the Flathead Building Association, Flathead Electric and the Montana Contractors Association.

According to Anderson, who has been with the high school for eight years and previously taught in Great Falls, in 2012, 53 percent of all job openings in Montana were for middle-skilled workers. And statistics from the state suggest that in the next decade 50 percent of all openings will be aimed at those middle-skilled workers in various trade professions.

About a decade ago, Flathead High School students worked with Flathead Valley Community College students on a home construction project but that collaboration eventually fizzled. This class will be exclusively for high school students and will meet five days a week at the building site located on Corporate Drive.

Anderson said the class has gotten a huge amount of help from various sponsors, including Glacier Bank, which has offered a loan to get the housing project off the ground, and Western Building Center, which is donating or offering supplies at cost to the school district. Ty Shanks with the building center said the class would help business like his all across the valley.

“All of us in the building industry are desperate to fill positions with young, excited and smart kids,” Shanks said. “Our industry is getting older and there are not a lot of young people getting into it.”

School officials hope to complete the house next spring and sell it soon after. The money received from the sale will go into a newly created nonprofit organization that will support the class in the future.

The construction of the two-story, 1,800-square-foot home will begin on Sept. 3, but a groundbreaking ceremony will be held on Sept. 1 at 10:30 a.m. at 663 Corporate Drive. For more information visit www.westernbuildingcenter.com/student-home.

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