No Grunt Work: CTE program makes students ready for building trades

Joshua Vissers/ Daily Mining Gazette Jed Aho trims roof matting to size in preparation for shingles on the roof of the Construction Trades class’ tiny home.

HANCOCK — Ever since they finished assembling their workshop at the beginning of the year, the students in the construction trades program at the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center have been working on a tiny home as a way to learn about the skills involved in building a house.

“It has most of the components,” Jed Aho, 17, said.

Aho, a senior at Jeffers High School, said he plans to build his own house eventually and needs the skills taught in the class. He has enjoyed the chance to learn about things beyond the “grunt work” he has done on the construction jobs he worked before.

“These guys are motivated,” said Aho’s instructor, Mike Randell. “They want to learn this stuff, they see the value in it.”

All of Randell’s students have already passed a 10-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification test, and will also be testing for a powder-actuated tools certification. Powder-actuated tools use controlled explosions to join hard materials, like steel or concrete, with a mechanism similar to a firearm.

Joshua Vissers/ Daily Mining Gazette The Construction Trades class at the CTE Center in Hancock has been working to build a tiny home this year. This week they’re working on the roof and siding.

Randell said OSHA has been requiring the certification for these tools, which are the usual tool used when attaching framed walls to foundations or finishing basements.

In April, the students will compete against 12 other programs building what is essentially a small garden shed, Randell said. Without assistance, even from their instructor, the students will have to build the structure while being evaluated on their teamwork, workmanship and safety.

As spring construction projects get underway, Randell said his students will have a chance to get outside to do some work.

Some students will be working with DP Construction on the groundwork for the new bus garage at the Copper Country Intermediate School District building.

Randell said the plans are still being worked out, but tentatively a rotating pair of students each day will go work on that job site.

“Any way we can introduce them to all the trades,” Randell said.

The students will also be doing some concrete curb work for the city of Hancock.

Some trades require extra licensing to do, but the students are getting exposure to those trades, too. Aire Care of Houghton will be installing the heating and cooling units in the class’ tiny home and have agreed to walk the students through the process and have them help where possible. Keweenaw Power and Lite did electrical work in the workshop for the blower system, and Randell had his students observe.

Randell said that many contractors have seen the value of the entry-level class getting students ready to be employable and have helped whenever they could.

When forming the class, he said they sought input from local contractors to see what would be of value for the students to be taught.

When buying tools for the shop, the CTE staff did their best to make their purchases locally.

“And the same with our materials,” Randell said.