KETCHIKAN — Revilla Alternative School students Tristan Beach, Benjamin Catlett, Chance Henthorn and Orion Timmerman have been working on the Ketchikan Youth Initiatives youth community center downtown as part of the school’s construction class.
“I love construction,” Beach, a freshman, said.
He added that he has helped his father with smaller construction projects, and hopes to make a career of construction after he graduates.
Catlett, a senior, said he definitely will begin his construction career after graduation, and already has his federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification.
Working alongside the boys on Wednesday and Thursday were Greg Molby, an instructor at Ketchikan Indian Community’s Southern Southeast Alaska Technical Education Center, and Dave Jensen, owner of Commercial Construction Co.
Jensen said the work on Thursday was focused on preparing the exterior walls for cedar siding at the Park Avenue building.
The class was created with the cooperation of directors of SSEATEC, Revilla Alternative School and Ketchikan Construction Academy. The students work from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. two days per week on the KYI building.
Chas Edwardson, KIC workforce development director, said he was heading up the Revilla class. He clearly stated the class goals.
“To get them work ready,” he said.
He said he always is on the lookout for Revilla school students who are good candidates for the class, with the aim to funnel them into the Ketchikan Construction Academy.
Catlett said one of his favorite aspects of working in construction is that he gets to exercise one of his favorite skills.
“I like math, and you do math, and it’s more active,” he said as he carried a piece of trim and a nail gun to a nearby ladder where he was working.
Academy students have built sheds, laid roofing and worked on concrete structures, among many other projects.
“Whatever we can expose them to in the trades,” he said.
“Construction is a growing industry,” he added. “There’s a misperception that construction is not a growing industry.”
He said people need to focus on preparing workers for the mining industry that soon will be prevalent in the area.
“There will be 300 people needed for the coming mines,” he said. “If we don’t get a workforce ready, we’re going to miss it again.”
The need to build infrastructure and housing will require about 190 full-time, skilled workers, he said.
“There’s going to be a housing shortage in Ketchikan,” he added.
He voiced dismay that the focus in high school education is askew.
“Voc-tech culture is not what it should be,” he said.
The Revilla construction class gets students working on real projects critical to the community, not just small projects like tables or shelves, as is often the case in a middle-school or high-school shop class.
“There will be no true economic development in Ketchikan without workforce development,” he warned. He added that high school counselors, parents and other youth mentors need to stop encouraging so many students to move out of state for work and education, and start emphasizing the benefits and opportunities waiting for them in Ketchikan.
The Revilla class, leading to the Ketchikan Construction Academy program, prepares students for positive job placement with classes such as First Aid, fork lift skills and Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response certification.
“We produce safe, competent workers,” Edwardson said.
Remodel of the 100-year-old youth community center building is intended to provide a place that will serve as a hub for activities and programs serving older teens and young adults, according to Bobbie McCreary, the administrator of KYI since 2005.
Ketchikan Youth Initiatives was founded in March 2005, according to McCreary, and its first project was to create a paintball field along the road to White River. A Rasmuson grant enabled the group to renovate a donated office trailer for headquarters there.
According to information provided by McCreary, KYI supports local youth with projects such as the paintball field, kayaking courses, tours, video game tournaments, art auctions, music events, after-school homework support and the in-progress skate park near Schoenbar Middle School.
McCreary said rented office spaces and two KYI offices will fill the creek side of the downstairs space of the building, and there also are bathrooms with showers and a laundry center planned.
A platform lift for full accessibility is installed in one side of the building, which McCreary said was funded with state grants.
Also, downstairs, will be space for job readiness classes and youth entrepreneur programs.
Upstairs, McCreary said, will feature display cases and retail counters so young people can sell their crafts. A small kitchen and area to perform music and poetry, to play games and hang out also will fill the street-level area.
Another group working on the youth center Thursday were from the KARR House residential treatment center.
She said that group would be clearing construction materials and stored items away from the walls downstairs so that the Revilla students could access them to begin installing sheetrock and building inner walls there.
Gina Stafford, a resident and the organizer of the community service projects for the organization, said they work one day per week either completing odd jobs under Ketchikan Youth Initiatives Director volunteer administrator Bobbie McCreary’s guidance, or helping out at The Salvation Army.
“I feel it’s really important ... to get out and help others,” she said, especially for the KARR house residents, working to get out from under addiction, which she called “a very self-centered disease.”
“This is definitely a community service day,” McCreary said, smiling at the workers bent to their tasks.