For one group of Grade 11 and 12 students at Ecole Secondaire Notre Dame High School, their school experience is broadened via the Building Opportunities program.
“Building Opportunities gets students active in the construction industry. It’s to kind of show them what Central Alberta has to offer for young men and women in and around construction. It’s not specifically a carpentry course; it’s a construction course,” said Mike VanLanduyt, the Building Opportunities program coordinator at NDHS.
The program, which is now entering its 13th year, gives students the opportunity to fully participate in the construction of a house in the community, provided by Laebon Homes, from beginning to end.
“We start right at the beginning of September and we work with every trade and service that would be involved in this house from design and surveying, excavating, cribbing, framing, siding and roofing. All of the mechanical right up until the end of dry wall and we hand it back over to Laebon at Christmastime and they take it over and do the finishing and the kitchen cabinets and the painting,” VanLanduyt explained.
Building Opportunities was initially brought to VanLanduyt 13 years ago by then-Red Deer Catholic Regional School Board Chairperson Gord Bontje, who is also a founding partner at Laebon Homes.
“He saw an article in some magazine about a similar kind of a thing and he just wrote on the article why couldn’t we do this? Sent it over to my principal and she put it in front of me and said why couldn’t we do this? and I said I’d love to do that,” VanLanduyt recalled.
“With some people with vision and opportunities, we got it going.”
Only 16 students are accepted into the program each year and VanLanduyt said the selection criteria is competitive.
“Basically they have to have interest and they have to have initiative to be here every day at 7 a.m. and it’s just the best available students we have at Notre Dame for this kind of program,” VanLanduyt said.
It’s not an easy schedule to keep for a high school student, as they are expected to be at the school at 7 a.m. every day regardless of the weather conditions.
“You get used to it. It’s worth it because then you get to spend four or five hours out here getting to do something interesting. It’s actually quite helpful because then you get to learn something and it’s very hands-on,” said Shelbey Tensen, a Grade 11 student in the program this year.
She added for her, having an opportunity to participate in a program like Building Opportunities has been a great experience.
“It’s a great experience and it’s an opportunity for lots of kids. I’ve talked to friends from other schools and they don’t get this chance and that’s kind of a shame because you get to see every trade from surveying all the way up to roofing, finishing, siding, dry walling, electrician and plumbing. You get to try it all, experience it all. It’s a good way to see what you want to do.”
VanLanduyt added as a teacher the program offers him a chance to teach more than just a trade to his students.
“My main stress is that I try and teach good work habits. I’m not trying to teach any particular trade or service. I don’t know what their interests are going to be but I want to show them what the industry expects as far as the quality of their work and the habits that they work with. I try to teach a good cross-section of the transferable skills that no matter what they end up doing they can transfer over,” he said.