Inside the walls of a Tacoma classroom, four more walls are going up. Walking through the door of this room, the pounding of hammers and shredding of power saws can be heard as one approaches what looks more like a construction job site than sixth period.
In September, Lincoln High School re-opened its construction training program, which is now open to students from all of Tacoma’s five public high schools, after a four-year hiatus.
Construction instructor Jack McCarly said that when the planning for the new program began last year, more thought was given to how this class could actually prepare a student for an apprenticeship program following high school, unlike the previous program, which has been out of commission for four years.
“The goal here is to prepare students for union apprenticeship programs. We’re touching many of the bases an apprentice program would touch on,” McCarly said. “We do a lot of math in here, concrete, framing, roofing, electrical, plumbing. Pretty much the range of skills you would need to build a house.”
Twenty-four male and female students from Lincoln, Mount Tahoma and Stadium high schools enrolled in this year’s program. So far, they have learned basic construction skills and have honed in on their framing skills.
“This is different than a regular woodshop class,” said Lincoln senior Michael Murphy. “There’s more measurements… it’s more hands on. You’re putting things together and reading blueprints - it’s cool.”
In January, the team will begin work on their final project - a 130-square-foot house. The students will read the blueprints, frame, wire, plumb and finish the mini-home on wheels.
Nashae Hester, a junior from Lincoln, said she decided to join the class because she wants to be able to understand the inner workings of a building, that way if something goes wrong at her home, she can fix it herself.
“I want to be able to do it myself,” she said, adding that she has developed a knack for the work this semester, and plans to pursue a career in construction following high school.
“We’re trying to expose these kids to an area of work that you can make an excellent living in that does not require you to go to college,” McCarly said.
Steven Olson, a junior at Mount Tahoma, travels to Lincoln for the last two hours of his school day to get schooled in building. He said he has had an interest in construction and saw this program as a “great opportunity.”
“This class will definitely give me a head start in training.”
In the future, McCarly said he hopes the program will evolve to allow the students to not only build the home, but design it as well. Construction management will also be a future component of the course.
In order to provide the safest working environment, students must enroll in the construction training program at the start of the school year. McCarly said he hopes to double the amount of students involved by offering a morning and an afternoon session for the next school year.