Home Builder’s Class: Students quickly go from taking a class to taking a paycheck

On Sept. 9, 1970, at a building site at 3377 Yellowstone Drive, the Ann Arbor Student Building Industry Program broke ground on a groundbreaking idea – having high school students build a house from start to finish.

The program broke ground on its 51st house this month and has been an incredible success. One of the ways they measure success is how the program helps prepare students for the real world and life after school. Having these skills and this experience has helped many land jobs in the construction field.

And despite the pandemic closing down construction for students in March, many of them have already landed on their feet – with a hammer in their hands.

The program’s longtime head instructor Mark Valchine says that over half of last year’s students are already working on job sites all over Michigan. It’s a quick and amazing turnaround from taking a class to taking a paycheck.

“Our students from team 50 are already out in the industry and they’re thriving,” Valchine says. “Even though their year was cut short they’re really doing well. The character and the spirit that we built with them through the process just carried right over and helped them adjust and adapt.”

And succeed – which is what the program is all about.

“It’s around 60 percent of our students have gone out and gotten jobs in the field,” Valchine said. “The other 40 percent are pursuing higher-education opportunities such as college.”

Valchine says builders, contractors and tradespeople are in high demand right now.

“They have the skills and the tools and if they wanted to work there is opportunities out there for them to work,” he said. “We had one company pick up six of our students.

“It makes me proud as an educator that we are able to give these kids the skills where they can make a living and be self-sufficient and productive members of our society,” he says.

Home Builder’s Class: Longtime program continues but with new challenges to build from