VIU Carpentry students finish up their first year of studies in the summer of 2019. (Vancouver Island University photo)

VIU and Malahat band partnering to build a nation

Malahat Nation is putting into action the “if you build it, they will come” concept

Malahat Nation is putting into action the “if you build it, they will come” concept through a partnership with Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) carpentry program.

Since 2014, when George Harry Jr., Malahat Nation chief, was a Foundations Carpentry student at VIU’s Cowichan campus, the university has partnered with Malahat Nation to build affordable housing on their land while offering students experience on a real job site.

“A lot of our members are applying to move back home, which we haven’t had in a long time,” says Harry. “These new housing projects are a step in the right direction to building up our nation.”

So far, VIU Carpentry students have helped build two duplexes and three single-dwelling residential homes. This year, they worked on their biggest project yet — an eightplex.

“Our foundations program is 30 weeks long and we spend half of that time out of the classroom building,” says Carpentry Instructor Mike Braun. “We work on some theory in the classroom, apply it to a job site, then return to the classroom to learn more.”

This model of teaching seems to resonate with students. Ryan Hennig joined the Carpentry program to gain a deeper knowledge of the trade.

“I have worked as a labourer before, but wanted to get my certification as there are a lot of details that are not covered on the job site,” he says. “Learning the theory behind the practice has really helped me understand the whole process.”

“Being on the job site has helped me understand what working in the trade will actually be like and if this is something I want to continue to pursue as a career,” says Jesse Jacobson, a VIU Foundations Carpentry student.

Jacobson is one of nine dual-credit students in the program, meaning he is completing his first year of a university trades program while finishing his last year of high school. His university credits count towards high school as well, which is helping Jacobson graduate this year. Dual-credit courses are offered free to high school students.

“The students here will be graduating high school already being trained in a trade, which will give them a huge advantage to finding employment,” says Braun. “I have seen some of our students write their Red Seal exam by the time they are 19 and others who have completed two trades programs by their late 20s.”

The on-site experience exposes students to what working in industry will be like. Students learn to build as much as possible during the 28-week time frame, which this year meant staking out the site, excavating the area, setting footings and building foundational walls. After they have completed their work, other trades come in to complete the buildings.

“It really is a great partnership between the Malahat Nation and VIU,” says Harry. “We are not only building homes, but creating community and employment opportunities as well for our nation.”

The next intake for the Foundations Level 1 Carpentry program at the Cowichan Campus is Jan. 27, 2020.

Submitted by Vancouver Island University

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