It Starts with a Square

Tiny Houses, Big Futures

BY Regan Hewitt

Collierville High Schools is working to provide all students with their best possible future, and that includes having an option to develop trade career skills. 

The students in CHS’ Construction Class are currently involved in a local building competition. Collierville is competing with five other schools to see who can build the best tiny house. The competing schools include Kingsbury, Melrose, Southwest CTC, Germantown, and Cordova. Students began building in January and will transport their houses to the Shelby County Schools Board of Education in Memphis for judging on March 27, 2020.

Recently, the class had some special visitors, who helped the students get started with funding, materials and even networking.   

“We’re engaging with schools and local home builders to bring these trade skills back into our communities. Hopefully the students’ interest in learning these skills will develop into a career,” said John Ellington, the Director of Finance and Grants Administration with the Home Depot Foundation.

Along with the Home Depot Foundation, there were representatives from the Home Builders Institute, Tennessee Builders Education Foundation, and West Tennessee Home Builders Association checking in on the Construction Class’ progress. The students even engaged the home building professionals in a friendly competition: “Who could hammer the nails the quickest?” The students won every time.

“We get to be proactive and learn hands on. We are legitimately building a house! The walls, adding doors, putting in windows,” said ZeShawn Deen, a CHS senior. 

“The students are all building their houses differently, which is reflective of the housing industry,” said Tracy Barrett, who is with the Tennessee Builders Education Foundation. Tracy visits the competing schools on a regular basis to oversee their progress and provide any needed support.

The tiny house competition is just one piece of a larger plan to address the skilled laborer shortage in Tennessee, as well as across the country.

The Home Depot Foundation recently committed to train 20,000 more tradespeople by 2028, in order to fill the industry pipeline. To do this, the foundation is investing $50 million dollars into non-profits that share their vision, as well as $500,000 to fund student training in home construction careers in high schools across the country through the Home Builders Institute. 

The Home Builders Institute was a natural partner to help fulfil the mission, as they provide the curriculum, training, and support to gain skills in trades such as masonry, landscaping, carpentry, plumbing, and more.

“By partnering with local home builders, we can learn what training the students need and bring that back to the schools,” said Ed Brady, Home Builders Institute President/CEO. “Students are then able to become certified with the credentials to get a job right out of high school.” The Tennessee Builders Education Foundation and local home builders are working together to coordinate these efforts in the Memphis area.

Even regional management from Home Depot were present at the CHS visit and were connecting with the students to follow up about job opportunities after graduation.

“I feel lucky to take this with me,” said Deen. “I started taking these classes as a freshman and am finishing up my senior year knowing things I can bring right to a construction site.” With the skills ZeShawn Deen and his classmates are gaining, they will be well prepared to take on a career in the building industry.

Source: Town of Collierville 

May/June 2020 Tour Collierville Magazine