Eric Haven watches Jason Hansen work on the tiny shelter being built by Aberdeen High School’s advanced construction class on Wednesday. (TERRI HARBER|THE DAILY WORLD)

Construction students to compete in statewide event

A small group of Aberdeen High School students studying advanced construction are busy building their entry for a statewide competition later this month in Olympia: A tiny homeless shelter.

The event is the state’s first Career and Technical Education (CTE) Showcase of Skills Homeless Shelter Project. The competition on March 27 will occur within walking distance of the State Legislature. It’s purpose is to serve as a demonstration that allows state lawmakers and the media an opportunity to learn about the importance of CTE programs.

“Only 10 or 11 years ago there were a lot of these kinds of classes near or on the chopping block,” said Cory Martinsen, instructor of the Aberdeen High class participating in the competition. “But now there’s more of an awareness about the need for this type of training.”

Aberdeen High’s advanced construction class, taught by Martinsen, is part of the school’s CTE program and has nine youths enrolled. These students have been working on the shelter since January during their two-hour class period.

Each of the 17 teams from high school and college campuses across the state received the same set of blueprints and the teams have been working on their shelters using a $2,500 supply stipend. The shelters will be mostly complete but somewhat disassembled for transport to Olympia. At the demonstration site the teams will reassemble their projects, then put on finishing touches over several hours.

Having his students be chosen to participate is exciting, Martinsen said.

Only five of the class members will travel to Olympia, however. The number of people working at the demonstration site from each team has been limited. That’s disappointing because, Martinsen noted, “I wanted them all to be able to go.”

A couple of his students plan to go into the construction industry after high school.

“The work is there and the pay is good,” Martinsen said. “You just have to show up, work hard, and pass the drug tests because there’s plenty of opportunities out there.”

Amy Twibell, a junior, recalls watching her father enjoy completing an array of cabinetry, woodworking and construction projects. His career path went in a different direction — as a funeral director. Twibell herself wants to attend Grays Harbor College and become a construction worker.

“I wish I could take this class for a third year,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Eric Haven, a senior at Aberdeen High, has reached the same level of interest in carpentry.

“I really want to do this for my future,” he said. “It’s awesome.”

Some of the other students in the advanced construction class are looking at taking up related fields, such as engineering or architecture, where building experiences can provide them with enhanced ability to design objects that are practical and easy to re-create.

Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife, Trudi, as well as Chris Reykdal, the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, are scheduled to speak at the event in Olympia. There will also be a representative from the Low Income Housing Institute of Seattle who’s going to be accompanied by a homeless person. That special guest will talk about the challenges that come with having no place to live.

All of the finished shelters will be transported to Seattle and used as transitional homeless housing.

“This is truly a real-world opportunity for CTE students from across the state to show what they can do, while making a real difference in the lives of homeless people,” said Eleni Papadakis, executive director of the Workforce Board, which is coordinating the event.

The board monitors and evaluates key workforce programs and provides leadership on policies to help Washingtonians obtain the education and training they need to obtain living-wage jobs.