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Construction areas turn to learning zones for trades students
Photos and Story by James Hill
Construction workers at Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus (705 N. Killingsworth St.) are rolling out the red carpet for a pre-apprenticeship class.
Thanks to one of the goals of PCC’s Bond Program more and more students are using the college construction zones as learning zones. On a recent cloudy winter morning, Jacob McKay, the Cascade superintendent for Hoffman Construction, and Derrick Beneville, project manager for Hoffman, welcomed instructor Dwight Page’s Trades Preparation (APR 200) class of 25 students onto the North Portland job site to get a tour of the work. The tour helps show students what kinds of jobs are on a construction site and, hopefully, inspire them to pick a career.
“It’s fantastic,” McKay said. “I’ve worked on probably five to six campuses now. It’s always been a priority when you’re at a university or a college campus to bring people in and help facilitate the learning process. These people we talked to today are looking to get involved in working on our job sites and we really need that. So, as a company, and personally, we want to support any kind of knowledge passing that we can and we appreciate the opportunity to do so.”
McKay and Beneville guided the students around the job site, which takes up one city block between North Mississippi and North Albina avenues. Part of the $40 million bond capital construction at Cascade, the work will produce a three-story academic building and adjacent student center on top of a single-level underground parking structure. The whole area has been excavated and at the time of the tour crews were readying to pour support concrete slabs. As they walked around the edge of the site, students had a bird’s eye view of all the workers.
Hawaii native Paul Pagatpatan has been in the course for more than three weeks. He’s using it to see what’s out there and keep his options open for what he wants to do. While on the tour, he zeroed in on the surveyor and crane operator jobs.
“Once you see it up close you get a better idea of what it is you are about to go out and do in the world,” Pagatpatan said. “I saw how all these little pieces go together to form the big picture. There was a lot of information that was given out there. It’s definitely more interesting than it is in the classroom because you get to see how it all fits.”
That’s exactly what Katrina Cloud, PCC’s apprenticeship and trades specialist, wants her students to do. She is in charge of the field trips that the pre-apprenticeship students take to job sites around the metro area.
“We can use the construction site in our backyard as a learning tool and classroom environment for them,” said Cloud, who regularly partners with Hoffman to have classes visit their construction sites all over Portland. “Every single day there is a different environment for them; something different we can show them. It’s a fabulous opportunity for Hoffman to be supporting the school like that.”
In addition to campus construction visits, the bond program has offered Cloud’s pre-apprentice class blueprints of the buildings and construction projects around the district to do assignments, such as having students calculate how much material they would need for certain aspects of the plans.
“The bond office has been tremendous to us,” Cloud said. “It has really been supportive of making sure that we are incorporating their work into the classroom.”
At PCC, more than 1,500 students attend evening or Saturday classes as part of their training program every year. PCC provides approximately 10 percent of an apprentice’s training through in-class work while 90 percent is on the job. The college offers a state of Oregon authorized pre-apprenticeship program and Cloud said that graduates can expect to earn $30 to $45 an hour depending on the trade they choose.
“We tour and try get them as much information as possible,” Cloud added. “We try to show them what all of their options are.”
The Cascade Campus isn’t the only PCC location that is integrating student learning into bond work. In late January, Building Construction Technology students in instructor Kirk Garrison’s Residential Concrete class worked with Fortis Construction and Faison Construction in assisting with the building of a life-size mock-up for the under-renovation Building 7 on the Rock Creek Campus (17705 NW Springville Road). At the Southeast Center, students from a photography class are helping to archive photos taken of the construction work.
“Integrating learning opportunities for students not just on our campuses, but throughout the community, is a chief goal of the bond program,” said Bond Program Director Linda Degman. “Last October we invited elementary and middle school children from schools near our Southeast Center to participate in the building ground breaking. These children may one day find themselves at PCC’s emerging fully comprehensive campus right in their neighborhood.”