OSD: Trade skill students construct a house each year

By: 
Scott De Laruelle

Photos by Scott De Laruelle. Students Jon Powers, Mitch Spierings, JJ Rodgers and Joey Miles work on the house the class built.

Jon Powers and Ryan Lynch add a touch of paint to the house.

With demand for skilled trade workers soaring, some Oregon High School students are setting themselves up for success after they graduate.

OHS technology and engineering teacher Christopher Prahl’s year-long building trades course produces one new house a year (this year’s house recently had an open house), and he said it’s a great way to get students involved in the construction trades, either directly or indirectly. He said about half of his 18 students this year have already committed to various construction apprenticeships or construction management degrees.

“It’s a great learning experience,” Prahl said.

This year, the students purchased a lot in town for $75,000 and by the end of the school year, completed a house with more than 3,100 square feet. The house was listed for a market value of around $370,000.

The course has been part of the curriculum since 2001, and Prahl has taught it since 2009. He said the “incredibly high” demand for skilled labor in the state, as well as the interest among students, has kept the program going strong, with graduates well-positioned for good jobs.

Students can have their choice of employment at this point in time with numerous companies recruiting because of the shortage of skilled labor,” he said.

Students help build the houses from the ground up. The foundation is dug in August, and students begin rough framing, working with local contractors.  Prahl said they then to most, if not all of insulation, plumbing, electrical, heating/air conditioning, drywall, roofing, siding, masonry, finish carpentry, trim, hardwood flooring, tile, cabinetry, granite countertops and more.

When the houses are sold, that money is used to finance the next year’s home. Prahl said in addition to trade skills, students are exposed to applied math science and technical literacy.

Students are exposed to applied math through measurement, layouts of walls/sheating/flooring, estimations of materials, roof pitch, square footage calculations, stair rise and run, daily,” he said. “Technical literacy in reading the blueprint to create the house to specification and installation of sub components reading and understanding the installation guides, which can get confusing.”

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