From the “Field of Dreams” movie came the saying “If you build it they will come!” Bob Hammer had a dream of a Kenai Peninsula Construction Academy (KCA) because they came to him and wanted to learn a trade skill that could get them a job. So Hammer and others taught them how to build while they built it and with a little help from their friends at the Economic Development District (EDD) the dream came true. The “it” is now the new Kenai Peninsula Construction Academy facility located on the campus of the EDD in Kenai. Actually they built it, then demolished it, then rebuilt it all the while learning job skills according to Hammer, “The walls and floor were already built in the warehouse at the EDD. They made a deal with us to do a non-destructive demolition class where we could save the materials to be reassembled. We then re-constructed the building for a permanent training location for the KCA. So the building has been a learning project for our students putting it up, taking it down and putting it back up, there is nothing better than the hands on experience to learn a skill,” Hammer told the Dispatch in an interview at the ribbon cutting ceremony last week.
Alaska Commissioner of Labor Dianne Blumer was on hand for the celebration and expressed her support of the project, “I’m very proud of the Kenai Peninsula Construction Academy because they started from absolutely nothing and built this facility that now will go on to train others for jobs in Alaska. We have construction career academies throughout Alaska and we are proud of the entire program which is a partnership between the State of Alaska Department of Labor, the Association of General Contractors and local community involvement that puts young Alaskans to work in our construction field,” she said. “Our design for success is how many people we get employed not how many we teach and we do a lot at the academy to get people placed in jobs,” added Hammer. One KCA grad who spoke at the ribbon cutting praised the academy and said Bob had taught her how to do construction and this summer she started her own business, “I love construction and I’m good at after Bob taught me how, but I think I’ll do better working for someone else. I also like helping people and now that I know how I’ll tell them I can fix those stairs to last for 20 years or I can re-model your kitchen and you can pay me when you get around to it, and that’s not too good for a person running a business,” she laughed.
According to Hammer it was an appropriation from the legislature that fueled the project, “The state also knew that there were not enough Alaskans coming into the trades to meet the demand for jobs so through an appropriation to the Department of Labor and then to the Association of General Contractors who have a construction education foundation that then funded our classes and construction of this building,” he said. The KCA is different from AVTEC in Seward and classes offered at KPC says Hammer, “We teach a basic knowledge of construction skills which doesn’t take anything away from AVTEC or the college our hopes are from here they will continue on to those places to further their skills and a higher education and can become certified into the trades they wish to pursue.” Classes are free at the KCA and are for high school students as well as adults with applications now available year round at the Job Center in Kenai, “There are some hoops you have to go through and some testing applicants have to complete to be accepted to the academy, but it’s not complicated,” said Hammer. For more information on the KCA go to www.alaskaca.org/kenaipeninsula.