WARSAW — Junior and senior Warsaw Community High School students are building a new house from the foundation up southeast of Warsaw.
A total of 24 students — 12 in the morning and 12 in the afternoon — are participating in the building trades program through the Warsaw Area Career Center. Twenty-three are Warsaw students, one is from Whitko High School. Tippecanoe Valley also participates in the cooperative, but has its own building trades program.
A new home is being built in the Foxwood Estates subdivision off Country Club Road. The students are led by instructor Eric Taylor, in his second full school year teaching building trades. He noted the home was pre-sold and homeowners put their name on a waiting list in order to participate in the program. “We give them three or four floor plans to choose from,” Taylor said. “They can modify it.”
Work began on the house the first week of school in August. The foundation and basement floor were already poured, but much of everything else is being built by junior and senior high school students under the watchful eye of Taylor.
“We started framing in the basement,” the first week of school, he said.
Students do the framing, concrete flat work (such as sidewalks), insulation, hang the drywall, paint, set doors, do trim work and exterior siding. “They get a taste of a lot of it,” Taylor said. No mechanical type work such as plumbing, electrical or heating and cooling is done and someone else comes in to do the finishing work.
Building trades is a two-year program and students can earn college credits through a dual credit program with Ivy Tech. Students are required to take an introduction to construction course in the classroom before they can participate in building trades. In that class they are exposed to the basics of construction such as how to use a saw, what a 2 x 4 is and more.
Nonetheless, even after they get the basics of construction in the classroom, Taylor must be patient and work with the students, many of whom had never before used any of the tools or equipment needed to build a house. “It goes slow for a while,” and the work of the students typically improves as the year goes by. If mistakes are made, “we tear it apart and fix it,” he said.
Taylor brings a wealth of home building experience to the building site. “All I’ve ever done is construction,” he said. That includes more than 20 years of working for Hollinger Construction and Coplen Construction, then even more time owning his own business.
Some of the students will become interested in building trades and pursue something similar after high school. But even the ones who don’t can step back in the spring, see a finished product and take pride in it. “It’s not just sticks of lumber then,” Taylor commented.
He noted he was at a state meeting in Indianapolis recently involving career and technical education and learned there is a shortage in the state of building trades workers such as carpenters, masons, concrete finishers and others. “The average age is above 50 now,” he said, and people just aren’t getting into building trades as much as they used to.
The single story house being built in Foxwood Estates will have a walk out daylight basement, a full basement, three-car garage, family room and more. A goal is to have the house covered and the windows set by sometime in November, work inside during the winter and finish the outside in the spring.