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Community Home Build Program, by Jeffrey Reed
Special to Reid’s Heritage Homes

A win-win endeavour linking Reid’s Heritage Homes and local high school students is also helping to solidify the future of the home building industry. In fact, the Community Home Build Program, a joint effort involving Reid’s and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, is heading into an expanded fourth year of operation.

In 2005, students from Bishop Macdonnell Secondary School of the Wellington Catholic District School Board join the Community Home Build team already including students from St. Benedict and Monsignor Doyle.

An aging population amongst skilled tradespeople, and a decrease in young Canadians entering skilled trades, has created a shortage of professionals in the home building industry. Statistics Canada reports, a lack of skilled tradespeople such as plumbers and pipefitters is becoming an epidemic. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business reported in 2000, as many as 300,000 jobs were sitting empty because of a lack of suitably skilled workers.

Participants in the Community Home Build Program are doing their part to alleviate these problems. A co-op program rewarding students with three credits (two co-op credits, one construction credit), the program sees students work side-by-side with Reid’s Heritage Homes professionals. Together, they build a home, and help plant seeds for future full-time jobs in construction trades.

The program saw two homes constructed in its charter year in 2002; one home in 2003; and currently sees one home under construction in Guelph’s Westminster Woods neighbourhood. In 2005, three homes will be constructed under the Community Home Build Program.

Rick Gooyers, Operations Manager with Reid’s, acts as liaison between the company and the school boards. Dana Jones, Construction Co-op teacher with the Waterloo board, coordinates things on the education side of the program.

Gooyers explains, “We don’t put pressure on the students. This is experience for the students, so results take a little longer. If a student wants to be an electrician, for example, then we’ll pair that student with an electrician.”

The partnership allows the students to take part in several aspects of constructing a home, including framing, general carpentry, electrical work, drywalling, roofing, masonry and insulating. Students are introduced to careers, while the homebuilding industry promotes its myriad of careers to future skilled trades professionals.

Reid’s Model Site Supervisor, Frank Mantler, plays a key role as liaison between the trades professionals on site and the students. Says Mantler, “It’s very rewarding to be able to pass on your knowledge. The program has certainly allowed me to look at people in a different way. It’s an excellent hands-on partnership.”
The Westminster Woods project involves 15 students on site during construction of a 1,620-square-foot Stonebrook model home, to be completed by Reid’s in March 2005.

Jones says students must be 16 years old prior to beginning with the program. “Usually, only students who have completed a building-oriented course (Construction Technology, Design Technology, Industrial Woodworking) will be considered, however, I encourage any students who have strong interest in building to apply,” explains Jones.

Gooyers says, “My hat is off to the schools for changing their thinking. Almost 60 per cent of students don’t go on to post secondary education. A program like this provides students with direction, and replenish our aging trades.”

Jones adds, “Students really enjoy this experience! Each year that we work with Reid’s Heritage Homes we, together, evaluate and implement more ways to improve this experience for the students, and get them more connected with other contractors. I applaud Reid’s for their enthusiastic dedication to make this partnership with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board the very best it can be.”

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