Trades are the Future

Keith Construction team with students at Okanagan College

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Rise project lifts student learning and trades program

VERNON – For Brittany Couchman, a carpentry student at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus, building a new home from the ground up has been “an amazing experience.”

“I’ve learned so many skills, from reading a tape measure, to reading code and using hand tools, oh and lots of math,” says Couchman.

She is one of 12 Carpentry Foundation program students taking part in this year’s Home for Learning project, unveiled to community members and media today. This year’s project marks Okanagan College’s 60th Home for Learning, an initiative that involves carpentry students spend 14 weeks on a job site learning all aspects of modern construction.

“Our students have helped build daycares, condos, horse barns, sheds and beautiful homes such as this one on The Rise,” says Teresa Kisilevich, Okanagan College Associate Dean of Trades.

“There is always a certain pride when you build something with your own hands. These students will always be able to look at this house and say ‘I helped build that.'”

Keith Construction is this year’s Home for Learning partner, mentoring students as they build a new duplex. Keith Construction owner Ken Dahlen says his company was pleased to get behind the project and help coach future trades students, which are in high demand.

“Our industry is struggling to find skilled workers, forecasts say that 40,000 people will be retiring in our industry in the next 10 years,” says Dahlen.

“It’s important for young people entering trades careers to understand the need for a post-secondary education. Homes today are highly engineered, and not as easy to build without understanding the building code.”

In addition to being this year’s Home for Learning partner, Keith Construction was a major sponsor of the new Trades Training Centre in Vernon. Dahlen says local facilities and programs are important for the community, providing an opportunity for young people to stay at home and get an education. Dahlen announced that Keith Construction and other trades are adding a special fundraiser to the Home for Learning project.

Dahlen says a number of trades are providing preferred pricing on their products and services. Once the home is completed and sold, Keith Construction will donate a portion of its proceeds to future trades training at the College.

“Construction has been very good to our family, and I’m happy to support students,” Dahlen says.

Michael Collins from Quad-Lock was one of the suppliers to offer its product, air foam, at cost to the project. An engineer on his team also provided a full day of learning on their products with students.

“Anytime you can give back to the community where we live, we are all the better for it,” says Collins.

Vernon’s Home Building Centre is supplying a number of products at or below cost, including windows from Jeld-Wen and exterior doors from Masonite. Other companies offering preferred pricing include JP Garage Doors Ltd., Livingwood Floors and Home Fires.

“We are training our future clients, and we are happy to be involved,” says Gary Gilchrist, Home Building Centre Owner.

For students, meeting experienced trades gives them a glimpse into the near future.

“I am so glad I chose carpentry. It is so interesting, and it gives me the opportunity to have a career that will support my kids,” Couchman says. “I am really proud of this project.”

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