A group of Grade 11 and 12 students from Notre Dame High School’s Building Opportunities program have something to be proud of this week after completing construction on a new house.
The 16 students had the opportunity to earn high school credit while participating in the building of the house, which is located in Timberstone. Since the beginning of September, the students have been hard at work as they learned every aspect of building the house; from surveying and excavating to mechanical and dry wall.
After nearly five months of work, the students celebrated the completion of the project last Friday.
“I think the construction industry offers a lot but it’s tough to get started. It’s tough to get that first place. You need to have a set of skills to get started; to get hired. I’m trying to plant the seeds early,” said Mike VanLanduyt, the Building Opportunities coordinator at NDHS.
The program, which is only open to 16 students per year, gives students a chance to gain that experience in an educational environment under the watchful eye of VanLanduyt and the numerous trades people that are on the job site as well.
All of the materials for the Building Opportunities program are provided by Laebon Homes, who then sell the home after construction is complete.
VanLanduyt said the program provides students an opportunity to see whether construction is the right career for them, and if there are any particular trades that they are interested in becoming involved in.
“For some it’s a big turning point. They see that there’s an opportunity. For others it’s even a turning point where they realize that it’s a tough job and maybe they’d better look other places. But I think over the years one of the things I’ve seen is that the alumni are successful,” he said.
This is the 13th successful year for the program, which was started by VanLanduyt and former Red Deer Catholic Regional School Board Chairperson Gord Bontje in 2004.
Since then, Building Opportunities has become one of the most competitive courses in the school.
In addition to the invaluable experience that students gain in the program, they also get to learn a number of life skills.
“I think it’s an absolutely essential thing to have. Even if they don’t go into the trade in the future, they always have a skill that’s a lifetime skill that they can have for outside of school,” said NDHS Principal Rose McQuay.
“You’ve got to know how to do stuff when you own your own home, so this is just a good opportunity to know what to do in life,” said Grade 11 Building Opportunities student James Lague.
Lague said he got involved with the program to help him choose what he wanted to do with his life.
“I wanted to see where I fit in the world. I have ideas and everything like that but I don’t know where I fit. Choosing this program helped me see where I wanted to go in life and have a career,” he said.
VanLanduyt said the support from the community has been instrumental to the success of the program.
“I think tradesmen owe it to their trade to train young people. If you’re going to be of the attitude that you don’t like young people, you don’t like their work ethic but you’re not willing to train anybody, I think that’s part of the problem,” he said.
VanLanduyt will be leaving for Stettler at the end of the month to teach at William E. Hay Composite High School, with plans to expand their program into something larger in the future.
“I’m starting there on Jan. 31st and starting in what they’re doing now and then hopefully expand it into something in the future.”
The Building Opportunities students will now move indoors and work in the classroom for the remainder of the school year.