Building trades students excel

Published 10:13 pm Thursday, November 4, 2010

Trade students: The building trade students with instructor John Thompson and Pruden Center director Corey McCray stand in front of one of the sheds for sale. The sheds are sold at cost and funds from the sale of the shed go to fund another project for the students to learn hands-on application of their lessons.

At the Virginia State Fair in Richmond this summer, dozens of students lined up in teams of two and broke out their routers and power saws to construct a double-sided bench in a building competition — that is, all the teams, except one.

Clay Evans and Jake Smith, both seniors in the building trades program at the Pruden Center this year, embraced a challenge by their instructor to complete the project by hand, without the assistance of power tools.

Good with their hands: Clay Evans and Jake Smith recently took second place in a competition at the state fair. They were the only team in the history of the competition to participate with hand tools, and they finished in just over an hour.

The two were amongst the first teams to finish and took second place for their craftsmanship. The other team from the Pruden Center closely followed and took third place.

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“I was most impressed with their can-do attitude,” said John Thompson, building trades instructor. “They decided they’d do it with a power saw or not. That’s the spirit you really want to see your students have.”

Evans and Smith made the first team in the history of the 20-plus years the Associated General Contractors of Virginia has held the tournament to attempt to complete the competition with hand tools, Thompson said.

“We just wanted to do something different,” Clay said. “It was a lot easier than I thought. Finishing and winning, though, I can’t even explain it. It just felt good. Six people asked for our bench within the first 15 minutes after the competition.”

The students practiced beforehand. They made three benches with hand before the competition, so they knew how to prepare.

At the competition, it took them just over an hour to finish the bench, although they were given two or three hours to complete the project, according to Thompson. The hardest part of the project was cutting a slanted line down the length of a board.

“It probably would’ve taken us a few seconds with a power saw,” Jake said. “It took us probably six minutes for each side to do it by hand.”

This competition is one of the many that students engage in throughout the year to help them learn practical application of their lessons in the two-year program.

“We want to put what they’re learning in the classroom into use in a practical way,” Thompson said. “You can’t get warm by a painted fire.”

Students have helped build decks and garages for local residents, participated in Habitat for Humanity projects, done work for local organizations and projects at local high schools.

“It’s easier to learn when it’s all hands-on,” said Quinn Bradshaw, a senior in the building trades program. “Seeing how something is done is one thing. Doing it is totally different.”

In the past, the students built houses to sell. The school purchased land for the last house project, but since the drop in the housing market, the project has been put on hold.

The building projects are sold based on the cost of materials, so that students can gain building experience and use the funds to pay for the next project.

“The prices are based solely on the cost of materials,” said Corey McCray, director of the Pruden Center. “There is no profit margin. The students roll those funds over to pay for the construction of their next project. Doing these projects helps students develop and demonstrate their skill set and prepare to enter into the workforce at an apprenticeship level.”

Last year the students made two sheds, which are still for sale. One shed is 8-by-12 with a four-foot-wide door. The other is eight-by-eight with a standard three-foot wide door. Both are equipped with six-foot wide walls, white vinyl siding and trim coil.

To purchase a shed, or to find out more information, call McCray or Thompson at 925-5651.