From classroom to construction

Adam Yates will never attend Forest Edge Elementary School, although he’s already spent much of this school year there.

The Oregon High School senior has been working part time on the site of the district’s newest school since summer through the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship program and the OSD’s partnership with J.H. Findorff and Son construction. There, he is getting on-site job training and working alongside professionals in different trade industries.

In the past six months, he’s worked alongside professionals, getting on-the-job training in a variety of projects, from pouring concrete to wiring electrical systems. Later this year, as the building reaches completion, he’ll get involved in roofing and wall framing.

The work environment is the perfect teacher for getting students used to approaching challenges, effectively communicating and collaborating with teams, OHS technology and engineering teacher Chris Prahl told the Observer.

“We try to work with a handful of students every year and partner them up with someone to do a school-to-work opportunity so they get some of that career experience and see if they like it or not,” he said. “Because school and work are different.”

As a junior, Yates was in his home construction class last year, and this year, he has gotten a rare chance to work on a state-of-the-art commercial building, not to mention a future school in the district.

“We’ve never had that opportunity,” Prahl said. “It was nice to partner up with Findorff for Adam’s placement so he can have that experience. With Findorff being a commercial general constructor, he has a lot of opportunities to try all the trades instead of just one.”

Yates, whose two brothers and a cousin took Prahl’s home construction course, said he’s leaning toward being an electrician like his older brother, Matt. Still, he said it’s been helpful to experience a wide variety of jobs and tasks.

“I started out in the summer with carpentry and doing concrete forms, and as the school year started, I was working with a plumber for about three weeks, electricians for two or three weeks, then the heating and air guys,” he said. “It’s sure different from the (OHS construction house). It’s exposed me to a lot of new, different things; I’ve got to do a lot of different stuff.”

Prahl said each year, around 15 students take the home construction class, with around a half-dozen working on school-to-career projects the rest of the day.

“It’s great to work with local business and contractors to give students those work experiences and career exploration and to have them pursue what they might be interested in and get used to that to see if it’s something they really want to do,” he said. “If it’s not what they thought, then they can change course still before they graduate.”

Either way, it’s a helpful step for students to take, and it’s knowledge and skills they’ll know for a lifetime, Prahl said, regardless of their career path.

“Some may go into the trades, some just develop great mechanical or homeowner-type skills, some go on to a four-year college, maybe in construction management,” he continued. “Some just go on and just take the problem solving and social skills and leadership and use them for a different major.”

Email Unified Newspaper Group reporter Scott De Laruelle at