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James Valley CTC Project Provides Hands-on Learning

A new lake cabin located on a private campground near Pelican Point at Jamestown was built by students in the Building Trades class at the James Valley Career and Technology Center.

The project provided the students with hands-on experience, said Bob Thoreson, Building Trades instructor, while also saving costs for the owner.

“That’s one of the huge benefits of things that we’re able to do here too. The kids get a real good experience and the customer is getting a pretty good deal without a labor expense,” Thoreson said. “So we like to say it’s a win-win in that scenario.”

And Darby Heinert, assistant director at the Career and Technology Center and Jamestown High School assistant principal, says those types of experiences are not only valuable for students but can help potential employers as well.

About 17 junior and senior students in the Building Trades classes worked on the cabin starting in late October through May.

“I’ve worked construction with my dad through the years and I’ve always been interested in learning more,” said Shaun Kurtz, one of the students working on the project. He said it was a “great opportunity to learn more about it.”

The 600-square-foot lake cabin was sold before the project began. It was built at the Career and Technology Center and recently moved to its location. Thoreson said he will do some finish work on the cabin this month.

Building Trades teaches aspects of general construction, Thoreson said. It can include plumbing, electrical and architectural design fields but usually gives students experience mainly in framing and details related to that, he said.

But Thoreson also has greater objectives in mind for the classes.

“No. 1, one of my big goals is teach them and give them the opportunities to do a lot of things themselves when they become homeowners and/or landowners and they want to build things,” he said. “I tell them … you can save yourself thousands of dollars of labor expense by taking upon the challenge of doing it yourself.”

That includes installing windows, framing walls and siding, he said.

Kaden Williams, a student in the class, said he learned a lot about how to build something by working on the cabin. He isn’t planning to go into the building trades field but said he got a lot of benefit out of it.

“It was a good learning experience for all of us to help figure out how to do all of it” and work together to get things done, he said.

Thoreson, who is in his fourth year as Building Trades instructor, said the plan is to do a project each year if possible. While in other years students have worked on house projects, there aren’t enough students in the program these days to do something on that large of a scale. Instead, the classes have taken on sheds and other smaller projects. This year, they also installed cabinets and did other work at Jamestown Public Schools Transition House, Thoreson and Heinert said.

The lake cabin work was a type of pilot project, Thoreson said.

“We pretty much did everything from the floor and the walls, built our own rafters for the loft and insulated, worked on the interior wall material,” he said.

A licensed electrician and licensed plumber also worked on certain parts of the project, Thoreson said. He hopes in the future that a licensed plumber/instructor could provide hands-on instruction for students.

Heinert said the lake cabin project fits into work-based learning. The center can provide a simulated experience like the lake cabin building project or actual work experience through a job. For example, the center can help a student find a paid or unpaid construction job for which the student will also get credit for work-based learning, he said.

Students in those work experiences and classes starting next fall will be assessed weekly in five areas: how well they communicate, how well they collaborate, problem solving, technical skills and a high level of professionalism, Heinert said. Staff will work with the students on developing those skills, he added.

“We want them workforce ready,” Heinert said. “When our kids leave here they will have a strong foundation and they will be able to be an effective employee based on the criteria that we have determined that will make them highly effective in the workplace.”

Heinert said a student in Building Trades for two years would have a strong enough skill set to transition to the workforce or go on to further education after graduation.

“We try to promote sponsorships (with businesses),” he said. ‘And that’s a nice thing about what work-based learning is. We’re hoping from it will come more and more sponsorships.”

He said some businesses through sponsorships already provide tools and tuition for students in exchange for them to work for the business for a specific period of time. A student who doesn’t fulfill the contract has to pay the business back a certain amount based on the time worked/remaining.

Heinert noted that the Career and Technology Center also offers work-based learning in health care, auto collision, auto tech, agriculture and child care.



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