Shop class gives tools to build a house

Published 4:24 am Monday, October 11, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Students from Niles High School and Berrien County are reporting to a new kind of shop class.
But they're not making bookshelves and bird feeders in the Niles High School Building Trades program, they're learning how to set dry wall and put a roof on a house.
The Building Trades program offers 11 modules that teach different aspects of building a house. Once students complete the different modules, they'll have all the knowledge to build a house from the foundation up.
The program, part of the Berrien County Intermediate School Districts Career Technical Education Program, is available to students in all Berrien County high schools.
Students are bused to the Berrien County Intermediate School District facility, 711 St. Joseph Avenue, in Berrien Springs where the district has set up different stations to teach the trade.
David Belden, the instructor of the Building Trades program, said the program offers students a chance to try out some aspects of construction to see if they like it.
The Building Trades program and other career technical education programs are made possible through the Public Act 65 Consortium.
The consortium is composed of all 13 K-12 public schools in Berrien County and Countryside Charter School. Through the partnership, students from every school can take advantage of career technical education courses offered at other schools in the county.
Niles High School offers the most programs of any of the schools in the group.
The Building Trades program has been around for 36 years, three in its current format. Before the classroom module format, students would build an actual house in the hopes of selling it.
At the completion of each module, the students receive a skill certificate, detailing what skills the student has in construction. The skill sheet can be presented to potential employers as a resume of sorts.
But before the students can earn those skill certificates, they have to complete a short introduction module on safety.
Students begin each unit by reading about the skills they'll be learning in the module. After completing the reading, the class watches a video demonstrating what will be done in the project. Finally, the students get hands on and work on the module themselves.
Swanson and Belden said the Building Trades program can be beneficial to students in many different career pathways.
The program is part of the career pathways program offered at Niles High School.
Students are encouraged to decide what career they would like to pursue early so they'll be better prepared when continuing their education after high school.