Building students’ futures

The nails students hammer into sheets of plywood at Shelby County’s School of Technology piece together more than just birdhouses these days.

Instructor Tom Edwards said he’s trying to increase numbers in the schools carpentry program by offering a detailed look at the world of construction.

“We’re doing a lot of different things with the program — building furniture and building small-scale buildings,” Edwards said. “Just to get the kids interested.”

Students in the carpentry program get literal hands-on training by building wheelchair ramps, tailgating games, doghouses and Adirondack chairs.

Senior Robert Terry is in his second year with the program.

“I wanted to learn how to build houses because my ultimate dream is to build my own house,” Terry said. “I like working with tools and knowing how to build stuff.”

Edwards and his 14 students expect to complete work on an 8×8 utility building this week. The building can be purchased for $1,000, all of which will go back into the program to finance future projects.

The next task pairs carpentry students with the Alabama 4-H Center to build a floating dock. Partnerships like these keep the program running. Businesses such as BE&K, Alabama Power and the General Contractors Association of Alabama provide resources to the school with the hopes of finding workers already skilled in particular trades.

“My stepdad is a homebuilder and I’ve been around construction for seven years, which let me see how much money is in it,” said junior Jordan Champion.

The program itself is in a rebuilding stage, Edwards said. He wants to attract more students and show them that they can make a good living in the profession. The carpentry class is an element of the Construction Academy, which also offers classes in electrical and welding work.