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Students give back to community while exploring trades careers

NSCC’s Construction Fundamentals program is introducing students to a variety of skilled trade careers and apprenticeship, while also allowing students to give back to the community.
Brad Carmichael (shown in front) with (L-R) his mother Peggy Carmichael Mastin, instructor Josh Boulton and students Brady Swaffer, Sukhveer Singh and Ryan Rhodenizer. Absent from the photo is student Yash Patel.

NSCC’s Construction Fundamentals program is introducing students to a variety of skilled trade careers and apprenticeship, while also allowing students to give back to the community.

Building a ramp for a veteran

Brad Carmichael was a Reservist in the Combat Engineer Regiment from 2010 to 2018. He now lives with Huntington’s disease - a progressive brain disorder that affects a person’s ability to move. Brad spends most of his day in a wheelchair and required an accessibility ramp for his family home.

Students in the Construction Fundamentals program at Akerley Campus learned about worksite safety, how to read blueprints, measure, cut and use a variety of tools while working together to build an accessibility ramp for the Carmichael family.

Construction Fundamentals instructor Josh Boulton says the program provides an opportunity for students to not only learn about construction, but in this instance, work directly with a client. “They had to show up on time and keep the worksite clean. The students got to see what it was like to work for a client and at a worksite,” he explains.

Josh says the students were excited to build something that would make a positive impact and that the family was very appreciative. “I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience for the students,” he says. “We spent four days building a ramp that the family can now use to take Brad outside and for walks… It has changed their lives.”

Instructor demonstrating how to install the upper landing of an accessibility ramp.

Construction Fundamentals program

The Construction Fundamentals program is a customized training program that was designed to meet industry needs. It’s a free, 8-week program where participants learn to use various tools, both portable and stationary. Students also learn about the apprenticeship pathway to skilled trade careers. The program, which is offered in partnership with Nova Scotia Community College, Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency and Construction Association of Nova Scotia, provides students with tools and any equipment they need to participate.

“Students learn how to lay out and frame a wall and build a roof truss. They also receive an introduction how to pour concrete and more,” says Josh. “They’re working from the ground up and get a crash course on how to build a house. The program provides a glimpse of what it’s like to work in a trade they might be interested in.” 

Construction students prepare a ramp base and set support posts.

Honing in on students' interest

While the program is designed to teach the fundamentals of construction, projects are often based on the interest of the students. “I target the course and projects based on their interests. I get them to do a little project in the shop. They work on walls and floors, cut rafters and install a door. I have them do some wood-working so they get used to the tools,” says Josh. “I let them pick. If they’re interested in building a shoe rack, I let them do that.”

“Community” is in our title for a reason

Two of the four students who participated in the ramp project are international students who moved to Canada from India. Josh says the students learned from him and from one another. “I’m a big believer in allowing students to interact with one another and it’s enlightening for them to hear how things are done in other countries,” he says.

The project provided an opportunity for students to learn and to contribute to the community. “The word community is in our title for a reason. We’re allowing the community to be part of our program and to be contributing members of the workforce in a way that makes a positive impact,” explains Josh.

Josh enjoys teaching the construction fundamentals program and working with each student as they explore different career options. “I don’t know how this program came to be my thing to teach, but I’m grateful for the opportunity. It’s a different experience to help students who have no idea what they want to do for a career and NSCC gets to be the one who develops their interests into a passion for them.”