In the Community: Cascadia Tech Academy

 

Building houses to build careers

On a cool clear morning, a bright yellow school bus rolls up to a construction site in a residential neighborhood in Vancouver, WA. The doors open and several young adults step out and put on hard hats. They are focused and ready to work. That’s because they are enrolled in the Cascadia Tech Academy Construction Technology program, designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in the construction industry.

Since 1983, academy students have been building one 1,200 – 2,200-sq.-foot home each year in Clark County, learning skills that will allow them to make a living wage. NW Natural partners with the academy’s construction program, which provides students with options outside a four-year college experience, or are who are interested in the trades. The school believes that when it comes to education, once size does not fit all, and that it’s important to offer alternative career paths to young adults.

Cascadia Tech Academy Construction Technology students review the day's plans.
Cascadia Tech Academy Construction Technology students review the day's plans.

Lance Landis, their teacher, is also on site. He is highly engaged whether he’s helping students review building plans or raise trusses. Lance explains, “The students build the home and do the lion’s share of the work. I’m here to provide guidance.” His approach gets results. Academy-built homes have an excellent reputation with builders and inspectors: the houses meet — and often exceed — expectations.

The academy strongly emphasizes professionalism and it shows: the students are mature, articulate and take their work seriously.

The school believes that when it comes to education, one size does not fit all.
The school believes that when it comes to education, one size does not fit all.

Take student Noah Smyth, age 20. As a youngster, Noah worked alongside his father, a muralist, often working near construction sites. That’s how he became intrigued with building. As an academy student, he’s learned about construction and also leadership. Noah says, “If you’re competent and confident in your work, others will follow your example.” Noah has already secured a fine carpentry job after he graduates.

Sheridan Van Hyning, age 19, comes from a long line of construction workers, including her father, grandfather and mother. Sheridan wants to apply what she’s learned to building homes for people in need. “These skills will allow me to do fulfilling and meaningful work,” she says.

For Jakob Voorhies, age 18, he loves the broad scope of what’s taught. According to Jakob, “You learn about the whole house from the foundation up.” He adds, “It’s great to step back and say, ‘I helped build a home for someone.’”

For this house in the Glen Village neighborhood, NW Natural contributed a high-efficiency natural gas furnace and tankless water heater.

» Learn more about this and 14 other specialized programs for teens and young adults at cascadiatechnicalacademy.org, and how you can join us in our support. To donate directly to the academy's foundation, visit www.ccscfoundation.com.