For the last eight months, more than two-dozen Flathead High School students have been bused over to a neighborhood worksite on Kalispell’s west side. For at least two hours each weekday, the students have traded in their books and notepads for hammers and nails as part of the school’s construction class.
Last week, their months of work paid off when the three-bedroom house they built on Corporate Drive was put up for sale.
Flathead School District 5, Western Building Center, Hammerquist Casalegno LLC, Glacier Bank, the Flathead Building Association, Flathead Electric and the Montana Contractors Association helped organized the yearlong class that allows students to get valuable hands-on experience building a house. The class was the brainchild of FHS teacher Brock Anderson.
Anderson said the class gives students valuable skills they’ll be able to apply to future careers. 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 jobs will be aimed at those same workers in various trade professions.
“There is a huge need for students with these skills because the skilled labor force is getting older every year,” he said.
Anderson said students worked closely with subcontractors to learn different crafts during the project and at the end received an apprenticeship program certificate from the Department of Labor and Industry. He noted that the local communities, especially those in construction, were incredibly supportive of the project.
Anderson said that the students put in more than 9,700 hours of work on the house since last September.
“The kids learned everything from pouring concrete to plumbing and from electrical work to insulation instillation,” Anderson said. “The kids touched every facet of this project.”
Conagher McKinney, 17, a junior at Flathead High said he has taken shop classes since he was in seventh grade. While those experiences gave him some of the basic skills he needed, he said that he learned so much more getting his hands dirty while building the house. The house includes three-bedrooms, three-bathrooms, a full kitchen, living room, family room, and two-car garage.
“It’s been really cool to see this go from a patch of dirt to a standing building,” McKinney said.
The house has now been put up for sale and Anderson hopes to sell it for $309,000. All of the money made from the sale will be put back into the construction class program and Anderson hopes that it will be self-sufficient within a few years.
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