Students Learn Construction Skills Through Port of Vancouver Community Fund Program

Hudson’s Bay students

At Hudson’s Bay High School, students in the Building Trades Program are gaining on-the-job skills while they complete their high school education. There are currently more than 60 students participating in the program. Recently, about 20 of those students participated in a shed building project on the campus that was made possible by the Port of Vancouver Community Fund program. Hudson’s Bay High School received $3,000 from the community fund, and several industry professionals in the area volunteered their time and resources to make the project a success. Charlie Scharmann of PK Excavating and Land Clearing helped with land preparation, and Derek Huegel provided floor joist and framing assistance. GAF donated all roofing materials for the project and Dean Mathews, Territory Manager at the company volunteered his time to help assist students. Erik Gunderson, Building Trades Teacher at Hudson’s Bay, helped oversee the project.

Julie Rawls, Community Relations Manager for the Port of Vancouver explained that a couple of years ago, the Port of Vancouver’s External Affairs department noticed that other Washington state ports were offering community fund programs. So, they began researching about how Vancouver could do something similar within the port district boundaries. They launched the program in 2020 and selected three projects to fund, including the Hudson’s Bay High School shed project. The pandemic forced in-person learning to slowdown or be suspended, but the Port of Vancouver gave the school more time to complete the project and use the funds. Rawls and Tracey Scharmann, the Career Connected Learning Coordinator and Magnet Lead for Vancouver Public Schools worked closely together to ensure the funds went to good use.

“We have seeded the program with $5,000 per year but have been amazed at what has been achieved with that help,” explained Rawls. “State laws governing ports allow us to work with outside organizations if they are involved in trade, economic development and tourism. At the port we employ plumbers, electricians, mechanics, carpenters, and other skilled trades people who keep the port operating safely and efficiently.  We were very pleased to be able to support a program at Hudson’s Bay High School that is focused on introducing students to these great careers. I like to say the students at Hudson’s Bay are truly building a foundation for an exciting future.”

Valerie Seeley, Principal at Hudson’s Bay High School shared, “This is such an amazing opportunity for Bay and shows students how collaboration is such a great thing…not only does this experience connect Bay Building Trades students with community members in the field, building future partnerships, but it also serves our entire school as it provides safe storage for all the equipment our custodial team uses to keep Bay looking good. Through Erik’s vision to provide real-life experiences to his students with ways to support our building, this has been a win-win for all.”

The building construction program at the school was established as part of the Bay ACES Magnet only four years ago. It is part of the larger Career and Technical Education (CTE) Department at Vancouver Public Schools, which has been supporting career connected learning for many years.

“All CTE courses are grounded in learning technical skills to be demonstrated through project-based experiences with employers or community partners,” shared Mark Wreath, Director of Career and College Readiness for Vancouver Public Schools. “We have projects embedded in the classroom to practice and work toward mastery of these skills, but when we can find industry partners to plan, prepare and build something, that is where the true application of skills can happen. Our teachers are very knowledgeable, but to have a person currently working in the field explain the WHY and HOW the skills transfer and are used, that is where the magic happens!”

Gunderson said, “There has never been a time when the building industry has desired skilled students like today. The opportunities await our students. They actually have choices in where they go, and what they choose to focus on. It is a great time to be a student at Hudson’s Bay High School in the Building Trades program.”

One thing is certain: exposing students to the building trades can open their world to a rewarding career, even if they don’t take the traditional college education route.

“Our efforts and the efforts of Hudson’s Bay High School couldn’t be timelier,” said Mathews. “As evidenced by the housing situation in our country right now, the need for high-quality people of all abilities in the building trades has never been so great.  I hope that this roof, the shed project, and future projects help inspire some of these students to create fulfilling and lucrative careers in the building trades.”

Article Source: Vancouver WA Business Journal