The construction of The Petersheim Home is providing some unique opportunities for our youth through an apprenticeship program. During the construction process, we expect 25 children to be old enough and possess the maturity needed to work in this supervised setting.
We realize that trade skills are a valuable asset for teenagers nearing their independence and graduation. At-risk youth especially need to learn various skills in order to be successful in the workplace. Our youth participating in the program are learning hard and soft skills. “Soft skills” include: social skills, communication skills, higher-order thinking, self-control, and positive self-concept. “Hard skills” will include: pouring and forming concrete; framing; insulation; plumbing; drywall; electrical; and installing flooring and cabinetry.
Our youth enter the apprenticeship rotation with Executive Director Larry McDaniel, who acts as our General Contractor. During each session, youth job shadow, learning trade techniques and best building practices while also participating in hands-on experiences. The training also includes question and answer sessions with professional tradespeople. This enables our youth to be involved in the entire building process.
Larry shares a few highlights and challenges of overseeing our apprenticeship program: “It’s fun hearing the youths’ comments and perspectives. For instance, one day a young girl watched me put on my tool belt, then exclaimed, ‘It’s like a fanny pack for tools!’
“The program has been good for the kids, but just like parenting, it can be a challenge for the adults in charge sometimes. We just have to change our expectations. Bill Atherton often reminds our Home Parents, ‘We have to realize that tasks like changing a tire on a vehicle are not really about changing a tire.’ It’s about teaching a child and spending time with a child. Yes, it’s easier to just do the task ourselves, but we have to change our mind-set and remember that the apprenticeship program is not just about getting tasks accomplished.
“It continues to grow and get better. They like learning and using the tools. The kids have enjoyed seeing a finished product. For example, after the concrete floor was poured – they told me they really liked walking around on it. They were the basement floor prep crew – putting up the forms, putting down the rock, the vapor barrier and laying and tying the re-bar. The guys who came to pour and finish the floor said the kids did a great job. “After the floor was done, I could show them on the house plans where each room was going to be in the finished house. They think it’s cool to see the house actually come together, becoming a home for many, many children in the years to come.
“There is so much symbolism in the house building process – the importance of a solid, well-constructed foundation; taking time to fix mistakes so they don’t cause future problems, etc. Like when a child bends a nail while hammering, I tell them to pull it out and do it right, so the kids who live in the home in years to come will have a good, solid home to live in and won’t suffer for their mistake. Things like that make for great lessons for the youth; not to mention the skills they are witnessing and learning.”
Amythyst Heberlein, daughter of Home Parents Andrew and Merri Heberlein, has also been helping alongside our Coyote Hill youth. She concludes,“I really like working – it’s a bonding time with the people I’m working with. Tying all the re-bar for the floor was the toughest job yet. It was SO hot, and it took all day! But we still had fun. When the concrete floor was dry, I had so much fun walking, running and doing cart-wheels on it. It might sound weird, but I liked walking on our work!
“I think it’s really cool that while I’ve lived here, I got to watch the Atherton Home be built, and now I actually get to help build the Petersheim Home!”