The Great Falls Public School High School House students signed their pre-apprenticeship commitments in a ceremony today.
Many of the 26 students will go on to complete apprenticeships with programs in town. The list of speakers today was a testament to the caliber of this program: Dave Smith, Sletten Construction; Pete Pace, Great Falls Public Schools; Kari Woods, Department of Labor and Industry; Superintendent Tom Moore, Great Falls Public Schools; Tina Nolevanko, Pacific Steel; Mario Martinez, Northwest Carpenters Union; and Shane Etzwiler, Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.
NeighborWorks Great Falls pilots the program with Great Falls Public Schools. This is the 43rd house in 23 years of working together. While the students are taught everything from framing to roofing, and drywall to finishing, other industry professionals round out the program, as well. Electricians and plumbers ensure each is constructed to code, winning their project bids through NeighborWorks prior to the start of the program. At the end of the program, NeighborWorks puts the house up for sale through their homebuyers program.
Pace overseas the Great Falls High Industrial Technologies program and has been credited with teaching his students far more than the importance of the construction trade. One parent gave credit to Pace and the program for being the reason her son even graduated high school, but has since gone on to be successful in his trade.
Martinez candidly spoke about the importance of trades programs and how it gave him a start to life. “[Construction] gave me an opportunity to have a career. My grandpa taught me construction when I was 14 years old,” Martinez said. “It starts here. This is a lifelong opportunity to have a career.”
Not everyone who goes through the program intends for trades to be a lifelong plan, however. One student, Kailey Dunbar, noted, “This is helping me expand my options.” She intends on attending Montana Tech and studying music therapy. Being the daughter of a general contractor, however, Dunbar already has experience under her belt. She wanted to take more classes with her friends and do something more unconventional than her peers. She is encouraged by her family who see trade work as an excellent skill that pays wages to help support other pursuits, as well.
Whatever the program’s purpose for these students may be, the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce is proud of the efforts of our community for supporting our future skilled workers and current students.
If you are interested in becoming an industry partner with the High School House, please reach out to NeighborWorks Great Falls to see how to submit your company for the next round of RFPs. Contact Greg Biggs at [email protected]
And stay tuned for the High School House reveal in the spring.