Micro-home project prepares local students for construction trades

By on March 11, 2015

Bob Nelson watched as teams of high school students hammered, sawed and studied construction plans to convert four shipping containers into micro-homes.

Part of Construction Careers Academy at Warren High School, the students are working on this year’s project, to convert four 40x8x8-foot shipping containers into four types of home, following city code: an energy efficient home, a home that meets ADA requirements, an outdoor living home and a man cave.

As Nelson watched, seniors working as construction managers made sure their teams had the right safety gear and equipment to complete tasks. Others climbed ladders to hammer in some plywood siding.

Construction Careers Workers

Nelson, a CPS Energy engineering associate who helps customers take advantage of commercial rebates, spoke to the students recently, offering concrete building and safety tips, but also emphasizing the need for future generations to get hands-on training to fill jobs that are in high demand.

“I’m glad to see a large group like this interested in trades,” he told the students. “There are a lot of jobs right here in our community.”

“Programs like the Construction Careers Academy help our community grow the best and brightest in local talent,” said Lori Johnson Leal, director of corporate responsibility. “We want to see students get the training and experience they need for good jobs and successful careers here in San Antonio. Programs like this provide CPS Energy and other San Antonio businesses a solid foundation for future employees.”

According to Job2Careers, there are thousands — encouraging news to senior Dameon Buhl-Strubble, who is working as an electrician on the shipping container project.  

“I didn’t know construction jobs were this high in demand,” said Buhl-Strubble. “It’s encouraging to hear we need more engineers and people in trades. I hope to benefit the community someday with everything I’m learning here.”

Senior Roberto Muñiz, who plans to pursue a trade at St. Philip’s College or Texas A&M San Antonio, was also happy to hear Nelson talk about the great job potential in our community.

“It’s encouraging to know there are a lot of jobs out there,” he said. “I’m getting a lot of experience that will help me to someday become a construction manager or a diesel mechanic.”

Nelson challenged the notion that everyone is destined for college.

Bob Nelson Speaking

CPS Energy Engineering Associate Bob Nelson speaks to a group of more than 60 students at the Construction Careers Academy.

“Some students are better suited for getting trained as an electrician, plumber or carpenter,” he said. “Often these students end up going the traditional route to college and end up wasting time and money when it doesn’t work out.”

He also assured students they could do very well financially if they choose a trade versus a college degree.

“In the long-term, electricians get paid more than psychology majors because they don’t have to spend years paying off student loans.”

The average bachelor’s degree in the U.S. costs students $127,000 while an average trade school degree costs $33,000, according to The Simple Dollar.

Shipping Containers

Professor Steve Gallets, who oversees the program, invited Nelson to speak to the students.

Gallets said students are looking forward to completing their micro-homes so they can show them off during their own Parade of Homes event this May. Eventually, they’ll be sold at auction and money will go back to funding the training programs.

While the homes will turn a profit, the more valuable return on investment will come when these students fill important jobs in our community.

“When students start looking for jobs, they find out companies are looking for people with experience,” said Gallets. “We are one of the only high schools in the U.S. that has extensive training like this. What we’re trying to do here is equip these students with hands-on experience to learn these trades so they can someday become a plumber, electrician, engineer or architect.”

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