Oregon Construction Student Pioneers

Amity High School has fewer than 300 students, but this small school features a juggernaut construction program. Alongside the football field is a large warehouse-sized construction trades classroom, where Amity High trades teacher John Sterns guides the students through every step of constructing a home “Get a tape, check your reveal, make sure it’s right”.

This past school year, Amity students were introduced to some top -notch classroom lessons about construction as well. Amity became the first school in Oregon to use the Home Builders Institute Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) curriculum. Sterns learned about HBI while working for a Colorado training program, and wanted to bring it here. “I loved the way it took all of the trades, the whole gamut, and gives them as many opportunities as they can”. Sterns asked HBA CEO Dave Nielsen for help purchasing a license for the curriculum, and HBA facilitated Amity getting a grant from HBI to pay for it.

Student Molly Molven Buerden tells us she likes the lessons. “It’s been pretty helpful for some situations where we are not quite sure what to do you remember back to what you learned in HBI…it really is helpful when it comes to safety precautions”. Riley Baxter is also a fan “It’s a pretty good curriculum there’s a lot of information in there. It’s super helpful for a lot of things we use in the classroom every day”.

HBI created the PACT curriculum back in 1994, recently adding NAHB’s Green Building Standards, and on- line components during Covid. It is one of only three pre-apprenticeship curricula recognized by the US Department of Labor for use at youth training programs around the country. Sterns is working with Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries so Oregon kids who complete the program will receive a pre-apprenticeship certificate. Sterns is also encouraging other Oregon high school teachers to consider the HBI curriculum. The HBI classroom lessons are academic enough for the kids to receive math credits.

Along with on-line tests, the bulk of the program is hands-on. That suits students like Mitchell Melton just fine. “I don’t like the computer stuff as much, the building stuff, that’s pretty cool. I’ve learned a lot more than sitting in a classroom”.

Amity provides students a wealth of experiences. They build three- sided mock buildings from the ground up. They practice framing, drywall, roofing, painting, and more. And they learn quickly to “measure twice, and cut once” as the saying goes.  Two classes compete against each other for grades, higher grades are awarded for the highest quality work. Sterns sees himself as a coach, “It’s all on them”. Sterns explains mistakes are part of the process of teaching high schoolers, and that is key to helping them learn.  

Sterns says through HBI, some of these students will start learning about electric and plumbing next year. Many of the students told us they already have summer jobs lined up, and plan to continue on a path towards a career in construction. But Stern says, his robust program benefits all of his students.  “It’s about being a productive member of society. These are skills people need”. We plan to involve these very useful young builders in our projects, hoping they’ll join the ranks of the generous HBF volunteers who help us provide shelter to people who need it.

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