The Cass Career Center’s construction trades program is helping students become employable in their craft.
“We build cabins from start to finish,” said Archie High School senior Josh Cantrell. “It’s a two year process.”
Located in Harrisonville, the CCC draws high school students throughout the county, as well as Lee’s Summit and Adrian, and offers 13 technical occupation-specific programs that are taught by industry-experienced professionals using state-of-the-art equipment.
“Employability skills is what we mostly operate -- and the understanding what employers will be looking for,” said Construction Technology Instructor Mark Hollingshead, of what he hopes his students learn in his courses. “Teachability and employability. Those are probably the biggest concentration, rather than trying to make journeymen workers out of them.”
Cantrell, along with his classmate, Jason Goss, a Harrisonville senior who is looking to join the Insulator's Union after high school, also said their instructor also preaches on how to be honest business practices within their trade.
As two-year program, students are enrolled in the program during both their junior or senior year in either a morning or afternoon section.
Over the period of the two years, students in both sections of the class build a 12-by-20-foot cabin from start to finish.
Up until six years ago, students in the construction trades program used to build residential homes. The CCC decided to start building cabins because it allowed students to have their job site in the classroom.
To date, four other cabins have been built by past students in the program. Two cabins are still available for purchase, Hollingshead said.
The students will complete the program’s fifth and sixth cabins at the end of this school year.
“Last year we drew up the plans for the cabin and everybody had an input,” said Cantrell, who wants to be a heavy equipment operator in the future.
About 12-15 students are enrolled in each section.
After the completion of their work, the cabins are put on display at Sutherlands and Family Center in Harrisonville for potential buyers to see.
The cost of the cabins run at about $9,000 to $9,600 each, and include beds or lofts, a kitchenette and a bathroom, essentially the cost of materials.
Hollingshead said he spends a year on teaching the students interior work, and the next year, exterior work.
This allows all the students in the program get a taste of the many different aspects of the construction trade -- from roofing to plumbing -- to everything in between.
Students also take on jobs they could have at a construction zone.
“I act as the job superintendent and then I have student foremen, crew chiefs, tool men, safety men, and they rotate positions monthly so they all get a chance to see the responsibility of all the positions,” Hollingshead said. “I try to set the class up like a real job site.”
Students are also responsible for installing bunk beds or lofts, cabinets and countertop, along with showers and toilets.
“We have a budget, and we work within that,” Hollingshead said. “That’s part of their training -- figuring material and coming in under budget.”
Hollingshead works with a workforce advisory committee that assists him in making sure students will be prepared for the workforce.
“Employers that are on my advisory committee said the most important thing is to have them show up every day and on time,” Hollingshead said. “After that, we can teach them to work but you have to teach them to be here. I try to give them a broad spectrum of the construction trades.”
Hollingshead also keeps his students interested in their work by visiting commercial jobs sites about every other week. The class also has special guests, like one individual who brought a mini excavator and simulators to the shop, from time to time.
“It kind of gives you a taste of everything too, that way you can kind of know what you want to go into,” Goss said. “I am more of a visual learner, so this fits my learning better than just sitting in a classroom and reading out of a text book.”
The CCC also staffs certified English and math instructors that incorporate those trade-specific skills into their core studies.
“When they apply it to something they understand and something that they’re interested in, it makes sense, and it makes them better at their skill,” CCC director Gina Smith said.
At the end of their second year in the program, students can come away from the program with five high school credits (one English, one math and 3 electives) and as many as 30 credit hours of college credit from area technical colleges.
Students also complete 10 hours of OSHA certification and Bobcat safety and operation certification as part of the class.