The Building Trades class constructs a house with different foundations in Midland, as well as teaching students important life skills. Staff Writer David Draves | Staff Writer Carter Hazen | Features Editor Jenna Spencer

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The Building Trades class constructs a house with different foundations in Midland, as well as teaching students important life skills. Staff Writer David Draves | Staff Writer Carter Hazen | Features Editor Jenna Spencer

The piercing sound of metal on a blade, the hum of the heater, and the crunch of the snow beneath students’ work boots are familiar noises to Building Trades teacher Kevin Dodick. Every day from fifth to sixth hour, he’s off campus teaching students how to build houses for the mentally or physically disabled.

“We have been building what we call the zero step homes, which are [for] people that could have mental or physical disabilities,” Dodick said. “It’s barrier free, it’s ADA compliant, which is a thing that [homeowners] need to have if [they’re] going to be handicap accessible.”

The Building Trades class started doing home remodeling during the 1970s. However, in 1978, the class started building entire houses, and Dodick started teaching the class in 2006. The class works together with Reece Endeavor, the Arc of Midland, and this year, Habitat for Humanity.

Housing technician Bill Brown works for the City of Midland, and helps the class. He said he coordinates with the different programs the class does to come up with a design and property. He also helps with funding.

“I take that money out of the housing commission fund to pay for materials or the required subcontractors that we need, and then at the end of the year when the house is finished and sold, that money goes back into that revolving fund,” Brown said.

This is not the only thing he does to help the program. Brown first started helping the class when Oscar Hahn, who was his football coach and drivers ed teacher, was teaching it. Brown started doing carpentry in Houston, Texas before moving back to Midland.

“Oscar would call me up and say ‘Can you come over and show the students how to hang doors or install cabinets or build laminate counter tops, or whatever,’” Brown said. “So I did that on and off throughout the years for Oscar probably a dozen different times.
That was really my first connection with the building trades.”

Now, Brown said he is at the site almost everyday, and sometimes actually helps with the construction by working on the framing, and cooperates with students since he’s been working in the field for over 40 years.

“I’m really happy to be involved, that’s what keeps me working at this age, because I’ll be seventy in another two years and people say ‘Why are you still working?’” Brown said. “I enjoy the contact with younger students and knowing that maybe I might be able to help some of them.”

Senior Katlin Adams said her favorite thing about the class is all the different projects she can make, and how much detail she can put into her projects. This is her third year taking the Building Trades class, after she took woodshop her freshman year.

“Mr. Dodick was talking about the class all year, so I thought it was fun and tried it my sophomore year,” Adams said.

Dodick said that he spends the first two weeks of the year teaching the students terminology and safety. After those two weeks, the class starts on the construction of the house, typically building the walls at school.

“[The building trades program] really makes you think. How Mr. Dodick teaches, he’s not going to tell you the answer to everything,” Adams said. “He will say ‘figure it out,’ or ‘try it yourself,’ which really sets you up for the real world instead of just sitting in the classroom talking about it.”

Students can receive opportunities after graduation. Brown said that he gets contacted at least once a month by contractor asking whether or not there are any good students, because companies are in need of workers.

“We’re very very lucky to have people like Three Rivers and Wolgast and J.E. Johnson and all these big companies right here in our town, which actually end up taking a lot of our students straight out of high school to work,” Dodick said.

Dodick doesn’t just teach the students construction, but also teaches what he calls “life skills,” which means being able to use saws and fix things themselves. Students don’t need experience in construction to take the class.

“[I like] working with the kids, teaching them something that is a life skill that they can look back on and say ‘I remember learning this with Mr. Dodick 10 years ago,’” Dodick said