January 10, 2024
Northland Community and Technical College students from various trades programs joined forces to take on this year’s project house entirely on their own — a first in the forty-year history of building project houses.
Also unique this year is the location of the build. In past years, students were forced to travel off campus to work on the construction project. This year, the build site is right on campus.
“Having the house built on campus eliminates transportation issues,” said Monty Johnson, Interim Dean of Technical Programs. “The house project showcases the skills learned at Northland, and we’re excited to have it all on display for the entire campus and community to see.”
Carpentry Instructor Brad Swanson said forty to forty-five students in total will be working on the project house at some point during the construction process.
“It’s a year-round process,” Swanson said, “Students are doing all the work that goes into building a house… framing, roofing, windows, wiring the house… every nail, fixture, and outlet will be completed as part of their coursework.”
Northland President Dr. Sandy Kiddoo sees the value of the yearly project benefitting both Northland students and the surrounding communities. With help wanted signs outnumbering skilled applicants, Kiddoo says training future workers is an essential responsibility of the college.
“The workforce shortage is hitting all sectors in our region,” Kiddoo said, “including the construction trades. In our local area, there are multiple building projects and industry expansions that need qualified builders, plumbers, and HVAC technicians… the exact skills our students are learning through real world, hands on training.”
Swanson agrees, saying there isn’t a trade out there with enough workers to fill available jobs. That’s good news for those entering these professions.
“This is a problem that is only going to get worse as the baby boomers retire and leave the workforce,” Swanson said. “The number of open trade positions has certainly been growing, and I’ve seen projections calling for another 3.5% growth between 2023 and 2027. The jobs currently pay an average of just over $60,000 per year, and I would expect to see wages and salaries continue to rise until enough skilled workers come in to alleviate the shortage. I had a student last year who was making $26 per hour as an 18-year-old.”
Local students get the training they need to build a lifelong, satisfying career in the skilled trades. Local employers get well-prepared prospects when hiring for critical positions. Even the local community gets a boost — albeit singular — in affordable housing. For its part, Northland hopes to continue the tradition.
“We plan to use the proceeds from the house sale to fund another home build so that we can continue providing this unique opportunity to our students and continue delivering value for our local communities,” Kiddoo said.
Every construction trades program at Northland is represented in this year’s build: carpentry, construction electricity, HVAC, and plumbing. Even the welding program got in on the action, helping set up the foundation beams. For future builds, students in the architecture program will also provide the blueprints for the home.