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Students help build home in Breslau

Dominik Cislo started high school with a plan. He was going to take a variety of academic courses throughout his four years at St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Kitchener and eventually choose a university to attend. Now, the Grade 12 student is headed in a new direction, one which he thinks is a much better fit for him, after taking an eye-opening ‘home build’ course this past semester.

Program provides hands-on training for future trades workers
Program provides hands-on training for future trades workers

Students from St. Mary’s High School and Resurrection Catholic Secondary School have used their skills in the construction of an Empire Communities home at the Riverland subdivision in Breslau, which is as of yet unfinished and to be completed by Empire. The five-month, hands-on learning project was available to students in the construction co-op program, offering the youths an experience unlike anything they learn within the four walls of the school.

“As I was in class, or doing my homework for my academic classes, I began to realize that I wasn’t enjoying the work so I tried out something that was a bit more hands-on,” said Cislo. “When I started taking shop I began doing better, my marks got better and I realized that this was the right area for me.”

The home-build course runs for one semester, and students try their hand at building a house in its entirety. Depending on the speed at which the group works, the house is donated as a frame, a partially-completed structure, or a fully-functional home. While earning credits for their work, the students also build on valuable skills that will last them a lifetime.

“One of the best things about this program is that I really got a taste of what life might be like if I went into a trade,” said Cislo. “Instead of going to class, I got to go to work every day, learn something new and get into the routine.”

To mark the completion of the semester, a year-end celebration involving the students, their parents, teachers, WCDSB staff, Empire Communities staff and the sub-trades who worked on this project with the students was held last weekend to recognize the efforts of all the individuals involved.

This program was introduced by school board to tackle the predicted future shortages of skilled tradespeople in local industry.  The Conference Board of Canada has predicted a shortfall of some 55,000 skilled workers in construction by 2015.

“We are looking for students like you,” said John Faller, president of the low-rise division of Empire Communities, to the group of students at last week’s presentation ceremonies. “With the skills you have built upon during your semester, you have the opportunity to get into an industry that has plenty of job opportunities.”

Faller noted that not all students in the program will go on to work in the industry, but he hopes that the project has inspired at least a few. Cislo said he hopes to learn more about plumbing and dry walling, and recommends the program to anyone who might just want a change of pace.

“It felt really good to do something like that. I wasn’t reading a book or writing a test. I got to take pride in something I had made.”

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