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Okanagan College partners to build construction skills in Salmon Arm
Okanagan College Media Release

Students enrolled in Okanagan College’s Residential Construction program are receiving hands-on training in carpentry with a new Home for Learning project getting underway in Salmon Arm.

 SA Ground Breaking April 2013

(From left) Contractor Rudy Heyde, Rob McKibbon from Shuswap Rotary Club, student Devon Larson, Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton, Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper, School District 83 Superintendent Dave Witt, and School District 83 Chair Bobbi Johnson.

The 12 students – including four women and five secondary school students enrolled in the dual credit program – are undertaking one of the biggest projects of their lives - a custom 2,300 square-foot single-family home.

Ground breaking for the project took place Wednesday afternoon. The students will be working with Okanagan College instructor Les Shuert in concert with the building contractor, Heyde Werks Homes, as they construct the house from the ground up.

Student Devon Larson, 18, came onto the job site with some practical experience already under his belt.

“I’ve done forming and put up some walls before, but I wanted to try and learn the actual skills,” he said.

Through this program, Larson, along with the other students, will receive his Level 1 pre-apprenticeship upon completion of the project.

“What I really want to see now is the finished project so that I can stand back and say: ‘I built this.’”

Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton said providing students with marketable skills helps everyone.

“We know the workforce needs people who have both educational and practical experience with the trades,” Hamilton said. “Educating this next generation will help provide the students with meaningful work at a time when an increasing number of seasoned trades people will be retiring.”

Students in the program range in age from 16 to 44. The five dual credit students are able to take the program while receiving credit towards their high school diploma.

Regional Dean Jim Barmby said the key to the program’s ongoing success has been the level of engagement that takes place when education occurs in this type of interactive setting.

“When students and instructors are fully engaged, there is no better way to learn,” Barmby said. “The high level of engagement we have on this construction site is a great example of the quality of teaching and learning you can expect at Okanagan College, whether on a construction site, in our shops and labs, or in our classrooms."

Dave Witt, superintendent of School District 83, said this project is the tenth residential house construction project involving local students, and community organizations including the Shuswap Construction Industry Professionals.

“These projects and this partnership have benefitted over 150 students and almost half have been students of SD83,” Witt said. “Many have used this educational program as a springboard to gaining their journeyman certification in carpentry or other construction-related career paths.”

The one and a half storey home will have three bedrooms, a den, 2.5 bathrooms, and a walkout basement.

“They’ll be working on the framing, building the roof and installing windows and doors. The target is to take the house through to lock-up,” said Residential Construction Program Administrator Rob Kjarsgaard. “This really helps prepare them for entering into the industry.”

The students will be wrapping up the project at the end of June. The program provides students with 26-weeks (900 hours) of theoretical and practical knowledge so they can seek employment as an apprentice carpenter.