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Helping with some needed improvements at the Jenkins Early Childhood Learning Center, students in the Building Trades program from the South & West Washtenaw Consortium (SWWC) are definitely getting real world training experiences.

A group from the SWWC has been at Jenkins rebuilding the stairs and ramp to the Baby House and replacing the front fence. They also rebuilt the dumpster corral with new doors and did a spring clean-up on the grounds there.

The Dexter Community Schools staff said the Jenkins students “love watching the progress.”

The Sun Times News paid a visit when the SWWC students were there hard at work. They were in groups with one taking on the fencing and the other the ramp and stairs. If you didn’t know it, you might think it was a normal work site rather than high school students at work in their outdoor classroom.

Building Trades students at work

SWWC Building Trades students put up a new fence at Jenkins. photo by Lonnie Huhman

“It’s a great way to help them learn the different phases of a building project,” said Craig McCalla, Principal for Operations at Dexter Community Schools.

McCalla said the school district is always looking for projects that will give the students hands-on training. Prior to the recent projects at Jenkins, SWWC students built 12 feet by 16 feet storage sheds at different locations around the district. There will be 14 of these sheds in total.

The SWWC, based at Saline High School, provides Career and Technical Education (CTE) opportunities to 11th and 12th grade students enrolled in the Chelsea, Dexter, Lincoln, Manchester, Milan, and Saline school districts. The Building Trades program prepares students for employment in the construction industry. The specific areas of study include: site preparation, demolition, framing, door & window installation, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, insulation, drywall, masonry, finish carpentry, painting, construction techniques, and management and employability skills.

Jeff Rittenhouse, an instructor with Building Trades program, said the projects they are doing are truly on-the-job training where students are honing their skills and learning new ones. The year starts with learning the basics, such as safety procedures, and moves into the actual building, starting with saw horses and now onto ADA-compliant ramps.

Of the projects, Rittenhouse said the more they do the better, while adding, “This is getting them ready for employment or continuing their education.”

SWWC Building Trades students build a new ramp at Jenkins. photo by Lonnie Huhman

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