Late last month, carpentry students from Wadsworth, Barberton, Norton and Copley high schools were hard at work, putting the finishing touches on an energy-efficient home on Stratford Avenue in Wadsworth.
Seniors in the schools’ Four Cities Compact program learn all aspects of home construction, from estimating jobs, learning to read blueprints, laying a foundation, framing – basically, what it takes to build a home from the ground to the roof. Much of it they do themselves, with some jobs like wiring subcontracted to area businesses.
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Building a home is an annual project of the carpentry program, which is growing in popularity, said Roger Wright, Director of the Four Cities Compact. Students, driven by interest in a hands-on career that pays increasingly well, even had to compete for slots.
“This year, we had to make a selection [process], “He said April 29 in an on-site interview at the Stratford Avenue home. “We had 40 kids apply for … 25 spots.”
Career programs are getting another look from students
In Ohio, more than 250,000 students have participated in career and technical education programs in the 2019-2020 school year, with courses spanning careers in carpentry to animal care, health and nursing, automotive technologies, cosmetology, masonry, machining and information technology.
Students are driven by a host of reasons, ranging from a desire to start a career right out of high school or skepticism about the value of a four-year degree. Others see a vocational path providing experience that will complement a college major in a related field.
For Norton High School student Braden Sullivan, the carpentry program provided experience in fielding family members. Sullivan said his uncle is an electrician, and he is considering a career as one. The carpentry program seems like an obvious choice.
“I didn’t want to sit in class all day – I like working,” he said. “I want to be an electrician. They make good money, and I love lighting and electronics. “
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the construction industry can be financially rewarding.
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The mean wage for a construction manager in Ohio, for example, is about $ 103,500 per year, according to the Bureau’s May 2021 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.
About 17,000 carpenters are employed in Ohio, with an annual mean wage of $ 51,600.
Workers in construction trades earn an average of $ 69,570, construction laborers about $ 48,000, carpenters $ 51,000 and electricians, $ 57,100. Electricians who install or repair substation lines earn about $ 84,000 a year.
Statewide, the mean wage for all job categories is $ 53,170.
Project dovetails with career paths
Copley High School student Mohamad Husein said he wants to apply what he learned to residential investment.
“I want to have my own construction-related business,” Husein said. “To build homes [and] flip them. “
Kendall Hahn, from Wadsworth High School, said her career path will be architecture. Helping to build and design a home gave her a more robust understanding of what that will entail.
“It’s definitely given more insight into the scope of planning that goes into designing a home,” she said.
At first, Hahn said she wasn’t sure if the Four Cities Compact carpentry program was for her.
“I was a little bit skeptical,” she said.
But after joining the program, she never looked back.
“I would definitely like to design houses and see them built,” she said.
She said she hopes to open her own architectural firm in the future.
Wadsworth High School student Cole McNeill has known what he wanted to do since he was no older than a toddler.
“Since I was 4, I grew up with a hammer in my hand,” he said.
His father owns a remodeling business, and McNeill sees that as a possible career.
“This program, compared to anything else I’ve seen or heard about, is so much better,” he said.
Barberton student Russell Hackathorn hopes the program will lead to a job right out of high school. He said he worked on bedroom closets and “a little bit of everything” for the project.
“Just get to build a house – it’s impressive,” he said. “I’m just glad I got to be a part of it.”
Dominion grant for energy efficiency
This year, Dominion Energy Ohio, after researching vocational programs throughout Northeast Ohio, decided to get involved, adding an energy efficiency angle to the Four Cities Compact home-building program.
With a substantial grant, Dominion challenged teachers and students to ramp up the insulation and energy efficient equipment at their home.
“We donated $ 20,000 in addition to what they already had the expectation that the work they would do would meet the energy star [standards]”Said Mari E. Cyngier, the company’s Energy Efficiency Program Coordinator.
Cyngier said the energy giant is investing in energy efficiency with its customers, offering assistance toward that goal.
“We do about 400 energy assessments a month,” she said. “… The Energy Star rated design will be super relevant [the students] in the future. “
Achieving the Energy Star rating is not a simple – or inexpensive – matter. To do so, Cyngier said several improvements were necessary to the home.
“To get the Energy Star rating the students … had to include [and] improve the following items: installing a high-efficiency furnace, install Energy Star-rated windows, properly insulating the walls, attic, seal the duct work on each joint and even insulating the basement floor, “she said in an email.
Chris Kallai, a carpentry teacher on the project, said the focus on efficiency helped him and students develop better techniques that they’ll apply around next time.
“This is probably one of the most insulated houses in the area,” he said.
The home will be auctioned off next month, and profits will go to the carpentry program. The winning bidders will benefit, Kallai said.
“They should get at least 50% less [energy] usage than usual, “he said. “We went way overboard.”
Wright said students are involved in every phase of the project.
The Four Cities Compact is the only area high school carpentry program that actually builds a home, he said. It makes the program special and effective.
“This is the carpentry program at Wadsworth,” he said.
Leave a message for Alan Ashworth at 330-996-3859 or email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.
Making a bid?
For more information on how to bid on the 2,300-square-foot home that Four Cities Compact students helped build, call the compact office at 330-335-1309. The energy-efficient home will be auctioned off next month.