Working as a contractor and being involved in the Kenia Peninsula Builders Association and the Alaska Homerbuilders Association, Bob Hammer has noticed a lack of new youth entering the business. To reverse this trend, last year Hammer helped start the Kenai Peninsula Construction Academy, a program that teaches basic construction skills in the areas of plumbing, electrical, welding and carpentry.
About 40 students completed the course and attended a graduation celebration held at Skyview High School on Saturday.
"It opens up opportunities," said construction academy student Shane Hardesty. "I'll get the edge up on getting a job."
"I took the class to improve my skills for a construction job," said Ramon Carreon, who took the electrical class. "Electricity is something I've always wanted to do."
Carreon said he plans to use his new skills and apply for a construction job.
"This class helped a lot in my personal life," said carpentry student Chance Percival.
He said he met several people in the business, some of whom could be possible employers.
For Percival, he learned not only new skills with his hands, but also with his head.
"My math skills have definitely gone up," he said.
"I took the class learn more about building a house," said plumbing student Kyle Michlitsch.
Michlitsch said he's in the process of building his house and will apply what he's learned from the academy to do some of the work himself and save money on construction costs.
Hammer said there is a construction academy in every location in the state where there is also a Homerbuilders Association.
Licensed electricians, welders and plumbers teach each class.
"The classes are actually taught by people in the trade," Hammer said. "Safety is probably the biggest thing."
As part of the academy's final project, all students helped to build a shack, which was then donated to Friends of Athletes with Disabilities to house its sports equipment.
"It's absolutely wonderful," said FAD board member Kelly Wolf. "These kids face challenges every day we can't even comprehend."
With a FAD local games event scheduled for May 2, Wolf said the donation of the shack couldn't have come at a better time.
"It's pretty incredible," he said.
A new round of construction academy classes begins March 30. A fifth class focused on weatherization will be added to the upcoming program.
Classes are four weeks long, with a total of about 50 hours devoted to the class over that time period. Anyone 18 and older may sign up.
To sign up or for more information, contact Doug Grzybowski at 283-2905.
Mike Nesper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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