The Central Montana Construction Academy was created in 2008 to provide area high school students and adults with job-ready skills, training opportunities, and relevant career exploration in the construction trade. The Academy represents one of the collaborative efforts between the Lewistown School District and MSU-Northern that is housed at the Central Montana Education Center on Airport Road. A 6,000 square foot shop facility and large back lot located on the local campus was, and continues to be, the perfect setting for this much-needed educational program.
Prior to the creation of the Construction Academy, input from local contractors pointed out the lack of a skilled labor force for area construction companies. The planning committee was able to obtain six different grants totaling $136,500 that paid for the start-up of the program, the purchase of all tools, the materials for the first modular house, the classroom equipment and furniture, and safety equipment. Ron Peevey, a longtime area contractor, was hired to instruct the students.
The program primarily serves juniors and seniors from area high schools that come to the Academy for half-day segments and work on a variety of projects throughout the academic calendar year. The biggest project each year is the construction of a 1,400 square foot (or larger) modular home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a lovely oak kitchen and more. To date, students have completed a modular home each year, eventually selling them to private citizens. Our new home is currently under construction and Ron Peevey would be very interested in visiting with perspective buyers and showing them the home. The sale of the modular home provides the monetary resources necessary to continue offering and operating the program each year.
Over the past several years, basic carpentry classes have been offered for adults as well. This spring, a four week course entitled "Handyman Home Improvement" will cover a variety of skills needed for basic carpentry, electrical and plumbing repairs to your home. The course begins in April and runs on four consecutive Monday evenings. Interested people can call 535-9022 to register for this adult education offering.
Overall, the original dream to have a trade program such as the Construction Academy has far exceeded the planning committee's aspirations. So far, well over a hundred young people and adults have benefitted from the instruction of Ron Peevey. Many have found jobs in the construction industry here and elsewhere. Area contractors who have hired Academy graduates feel their skill level is excellent and they are job-ready. Diane Oldenburg, director of the program, said "The Construction Academy program has proven to be invaluable to the individuals who complete the coursework. What our high school students accomplish each year by building a quality home is no small feat and we are very proud of them! They acquire incredible construction skills from Ron Peevey and work through some pretty adverse weather conditions to complete their projects. Throughout their lives they will see the house they built and take pride in the fact that they made it with their own hands. It is a standing tribute to their newfound skills."
Contributed by Diane Oldenburg, Director Central Montana Education Center