Windsor Catholic School district introduces Construction Academy, to create affordable housing throughout province

windsor construction academy
New Windsor Construction Academy will partner with Habitat for Humanity and local construction associations (WECDSB image)

The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) says it has launched a new Construction Academy to provide Grade 11 and 12 students with a wide variety of modern building technology skills while they help break the cycle of poverty by contributing to the creation of affordable housing throughout Ontario.

Partnering with Habitat for Humanity, as well as the Windsor Construction Association, the Windsor Essex Homebuilders’ Association, the Ontario Masonry Training Centre and St. Clair College, the WECDSB announced plans today for the new academy at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School. It will also incorporate the masonry program at F.J. Brennan Catholic High School.

“Besides being an excellent way for students to learn a variety of skills that can lead to careers in any number of highly sought-after trades, they will be doing something meaningful for the betterment of communities right across the province, and that’s in keeping with our mission as a faith-based education community.” said Dan Fister, the district’s executive superintendent of innovation and experiential learning.

Under the new academy model, students will spend part of their time learning in the construction technology lab at St. Joseph’s, and part of their time in the masonry lab at F.J. Brennan, which was opened in 2015 in co-operation with the Canada Masonry Centre.

They will earn college dual credits, gain advanced standing in programs at St. Clair College, have access to paid summer co-op opportunities, and participate in valuable experiential learning, including a plan which could see them partner with Habitat for Humanity to build prefabricated modules for the affordable ranch-style homes they build right across Ontario.

Plans are also in the works with both the homebuilders’ association and the construction association to determine other construction sector co-op placements.

“This is really a match made in heaven,” said Pamela Breault, operations manager of Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex. “We’ll be able to help even more people throughout Ontario achieve their dreams of home ownership, and students will receive invaluable hands-on experience, and the satisfaction of knowing they have helped someone less fortunate.”

Through the new program, Grade 11 and 12 students will be able to:

  • Take construction technology courses in home building, masonry sciences and the associated trades of plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling at St. Joseph’s, F.J. Brennan and dual credits at St. Clair College;
  • participate in a year-long work experience as part of the Habitat for Humanity construction crew for their home builds and housing projects within the community;
  • be registered as an apprentice and gain as many as 1,000 hours of work experience towards their apprenticeship which will ultimately shorten the time by at least a year to obtain journeyman certification;
  • graduate with a Special High Skills Major red seal OSSD diploma;
  • connect directly with potential employers given the wealth of education and work experience; and
  • experience the gift of serving and building the community.

Board chair Barb Holland said she is especially pleased with the new partnership. “A fundamental part of who we are as a Catholic school system involves reaching out and providing a hand up to the most vulnerable members of our community,” she said. “This new academy gives our students the opportunity to do just that while they learn how to create more meaningful, fulfilling lives for themselves.”


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