High Skills Major at St. Matthew’s

Kathleen Hay - EOTB Correspondent
High Skills Major at St. Matthew’s
St. Matthew Catholic Secondary School students have entered into a unique Specialist High Skills Major (Construction) partnership with the St. Lawrence Parks Commission to build a cottage for Riverside Campground. Students are seen here building the structure which also involves community partners

Like the familiar song, “If I Had a Hammer,” they’d hammer in the morning and hammer in the evening at St. Matthew Catholic Secondary School.

That’s the way Francois Morin, the construction technology teacher, sees it when he talks about the Specialist High Skills Major (Construction) program which he oversees there. Currently, his students are busy constructing a cottage for the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, in conjunction with community partners, GENIVAR and the Eastern Ontario Training Board.

“The kids are truly excited,” says Morin. “As a teacher, it is such a pleasure to see them so involved in the project. It really is extraordinary. And when the project is completed, there will be a plaque placed on it with all of the kids’ names on it.”

It’s the first year the SHSM program is being offered at St. Matthew. The Ministry of Education approved program allows students to focus on their learning in a specialized economic sector, such as construction, while meeting the requirements towards achieving an Ontario Secondary School Diploma. The program also assists students in transitioning from secondary school to apprenticeship training.

“It really helps them to gain sector specialist skills and knowledge while in a career-related learning environment,” Morin added. “In our case, most schools have construction programs, but rarely have the opportunity to build a house. We’re lucky to have this partnership with the SLPC.”

There are 15 Grade 11 and 12 students enrolled this semester in the program. The SLPC provided the blueprints for the cottage, then literally everything but the kitchen sink will be completed by the classes and to code.

As of Christmas break, the building has been completely framed and roofed, as well as having all its doors and windows installed.

“The students must read the blueprints, determine dimensions and construct it per the Ontario Building Code,” he stated. “It’s a complete mini-house construction.

“They construct and install everything but the plumbing.”

Morin has his students for two periods per day, from 9:30 a.m. until noon. For this, they receive two credits, but the experience gained goes far beyond the classroom environment when they head out each day to the cottage which is being constructed in school yard.

“The kids get so much from this experience,” says Morin, who’s been a contractor most of his life. “We’re customizing their secondary education to suit their interests and talents, while helping them to develop specialized knowledge, work habits and skills valued by the sector and post-secondary institutions. It really is extraordinary.”

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