Through a collaborative effort, Meridian Technology Center students enrolled in the Masonry, Carpentry, Electrical Technology and Air Conditioning and Refrigeration programs have the opportunity to drill in the skills learned in the classroom by building a house from the ground up.
From framing out walls to laying brick, students have access to real-life experiences and hands-on learning at the building site. For Masonry student Mason Walker and Carpentry student Garrett Knutson, the hands-on learning is exactly what they were looking for to build their future.
Walker’s family owns a commercial masonry business, and his roots in the industry led him to Meridian from Northwest Arkansas. He hopes to fine-tune his brick-laying and leadership skills at Meridian and ultimately work in the family business.
“I have worked in commercial construction with my family. Comparing that experience to building the house is very similar,” Walker explained. “Things might move a little slower here, but you still get to learn things like setting up and running a job site, leadership skills and the repetition of laying brick.”
Students start in the classroom with theory and the basics but are able to begin working on-site shortly after the semester begins. First- and second-year students attend class together and work on building the house at the same time. Just as it would be on a commercial construction site, students also learn how to navigate other trades working on the house and how to piece together the big picture.
“It’s nice to be able to see all the intricate pieces that go into building a house and see it all come together between the four trades classes,” Knutson said. “It also gives us insight into why we do things certain ways. For instance, why we give space between the house and the brick or why we put a frame up for an HVAC unit.”
Because the house will eventually be put on the market to sell, it is treated like any other building site. The students consider their instructors the site supervisors when they are working on the house. Between local subcontractors and Meridian programs, the house goes from a plot of land to a finished house over the course of two years.
“Building a house that someone is going to live in promotes confidence more than anything,” Knutson said. “I know that the foundation I have built here gives me the skills to go out into the industry.”
Walker remembers when he first came on to the site in the Spring of 2021 and the house was just a cement slab with framing. Fast forward to the Winter of 2021, the roof is installed, the house has windows and the exterior brick work is taking shape.
“Thinking about someone living in this house definitely adds some pressure,” Walker said. “Compared to the little sample walls that we’ve built in class, it’s a big project. It will be really neat to drive by in the years to come and see this house and say ‘I built that when I was at Meridian.’”
A Career in Construction
Meridian is currently accepting applications for January 2022 enrollment. High school students spend a half day at their home high school and half day at Meridian in hands-on courses. Meridian is tuition free for district high school students and includes free transportation from their home high school. Students can receive credits for high school courses in a variety of academics or as electives. High school students will need to talk to their high school counselor for an application. Adult students can enroll in the morning or afternoon session or attend all day. Adults can enroll online at meridiantech.edu/adults.
While attending Meridian, students can also participate in Career Training Student Organizations related to their field. Upon graduating Meridian, nearly 90 percent of students continue to higher education or a job related to their program of study. Parents and students can access information about the programs available at Meridian online at www.meridiantech.edu/programs.
Meridian Technology Center has been a driver of economic development since 1975. With a mission to educate, enrich lives and secure economic futures, Meridian offers full-time career training programs, short courses, Workforce and Economic Development services and entrepreneurial support to residents from the Agra, Carney, Glencoe, Guthrie, Morrison, Mulhall-Orlando, Pawnee, Perkins-Tryon, Perry and Stillwater school districts.
For more information or to enroll, visit www.meridiantech.edu or contact a career counselor by phone at (405) 377-3333 or toll-free at (888) 607-2509.