Students at Milton District High School help build a Habitat for Humanity home in Burlington as part of a new construction Specialist High Skills Major program.
A NEW HANDS-ON construction Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program at Milton District High School is helping Grade 10-12 students build employable skills and community spirit.
The construction SHSM is focused on all aspects of residential low rise construction. Students are examining architectural, structural engineering, accounting, human resources, marketing of low rise residential and project management. The cornerstone of the SHSM is its ‘Build Program’ in which students spend half a day on site building a home. In this case, students are helping construct a townhouse complex for Habitat for Humanity in Burlington.
“The school started the program to bring real life education to the construction program,” explained teacher Christopher Jones. “Students in automotive classes can work on cars and students in robotics classes can work on robots, so we felt that if you take construction classes, you should be able to do some actual construction.”
Jones is thrilled with the design of the program while also assisting Habitat for Humanity. He said the school has been able to establish several partnerships for the program, including working with builder Mattamy Homes. He said he reached out to Habitat and shared the vision for the program and they were eager to partner. Students began working after the concrete foundations were poured and are finishing exterior wall framing and inside framing.
“The blending of real life learning, social justice and community partnership is absolutely unbelievable and fantastic for students to see,” Jones said. “Our partners at Habitat have been phenomenal and share a vision for what the program could be in the long term. “
Rapid residential growth in Milton, and in particular low rise residential construction, provides students opportunities to see the value of obtaining a trade, especially in construction through the local SHSM, Jones said.
“Milton is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. This is part of the student's experience growing up in Milton, so understanding the process and being able to experience it first hand is a significant opportunity for students who are wondering what direction their career path will go.”
Key elements to the SHSM, Jones said, include providing direct curriculum connections, an understanding of a skilled trades shortage and the opportunity for future employment, and teaching students just how much is involved in construction. Students earn credits in Construction Engineering Technology or Construction Science.
“There are so many avenues within the industry to explore. Students who move on to areas such as architecture or estimating will have had the experience of being on a building site. That experience is invaluable when you are designing or pricing projects yourself even at home.”
What makes the constructive SHSM attractive, Jones said, is any student can seek enrolment.
“It is great to have females in the program, for example,” he said. “Having females in the program really opens up the program for future generations. This is another area where in providing real world educational opportunities students get to experience what it would be like working in a residential low rise build, which accents the learning done in a classroom. We're trying to change that paradigm and offer young people an opportunity to see construction trades are sophisticated and innovative and they are viable as long-term career paths.”
Grade 11 student Samantha Tawse enjoys the program immensely.
“I enjoy working with my hands and I'd like to get into the trades when I'm older,” she said, noting she’s proud to be helping a charity like Habitat while also learning important work skills. “It comes really naturally to me.”
Students are engaged in their learning through this hands-on construction SHSM, Jones said.
“We're seeing student engagement really taking off as they make sure to be on time and take ownership and responsibility of the build themselves,” he said. “It's so exciting to see.”