Thirteen Level 1 Carpentry students are set to graduate on Dec. 13, leaving a legacy of their work at the upcoming Tiny Home Village on lower 4th Avenue in Port Alberni.
In a unique partnership between the Port Alberni Friendship Center, North Island College and the Nuu-chah-nulth Employment Training Program (NETP), the students were able to complete their course load by sharpening their skills at the Tiny Home Village, still under construction.
The PAFC is the lead agency for the development and management of the Tiny Home Village being constructed on lower 4th Avenue. The village will have 32 small living spaces that will provide safe, clean, warm housing and support services to marginalized people that are unhoused or living in precarious conditions.
According to NETP Manager Cynthia Dick, the Carpentry Level 1 program was brought forward through a partnership with North Island College and Skilled Trades BC.
“Through our collaborative approach with North Island College, NETP has been able to adapt the standard seven-week Carpentry Level 1 program to meet the needs of our clients and incorporate more traditional teachings,” she told Ha-Shilth-Sa.
Construction of the Tiny Home Village helps the carpentry students achieve the 96 hours of work experience they need to graduate. The 13 enrolled students work onsite 24 hours a week for four weeks.
Under the guidance of NIC instructor Morgan Brown, student carpenters built timber bases for each of the prefab housing units, as well as the base and stairs for restroom facilities which were delivered in early December.
According to Brown, the class was to begin assembling tiny homes this December, but unforeseen shipping delays forced a change in plans. The carpentry students worked on other projects at the site, like staircases and planter boxes for the tiny homes.
Cyndi Stevens, PAFC executive director says the delays have pushed back the date for completion of the village to mid February 2023.
Brown is pleased with the progress of his students and the contributions they are making to the community through their work.
“This development incorporates community projects, which allows the apprentice carpenters to get the work experience hours they need to complete their programs,” he noted.
Brown says there are four levels to the carpentry program, and, after successful completion of level one, graduates have the option of going out to look for jobs or go to the next level of training.
Student Cody Nielsen-Robinson, a 25-year-old member of the Tseshaht First Nation, said this program was four years in the making and he is grateful to be a part of the class. He has dreams and hopes to contribute to his nation with his skills.
“In 2018 I proposed to our band to build a tiny home village using eco-friendly resources,” he told Ha-Shilth-Sa.
Nielsen-Robinson said there is a critical housing shortage in his nation and he sees a tiny home village as an option for single people or couples wanting to get into something affordable.
“This project gives me experience,” he said.
Nielsen-Robinson plans to complete training in carpentry to earn his Red Seal ticket. He envisions a tiny home village of 20-25 units on concrete foundations on the Tseshaht reserve.
“I want to build them on my own – not prefab,” he said.
According to Building Trades BC, the Red Seal program is recognized as the interprovincial standard of excellence in the skilled trades. It is the highest standard of training in the country.
The Level 1 Carpentry program began in Port Alberni in September 2022. The 14-week program trained 13 students, many of whom took part in NETP’s Trades Discovery Program which finished in Port Alberni in early 2022.
“We do our best at NETP to ensure our programs are community driven,” said Dick.
She went on to say that students of the Trades Discovery Program built smokehouses for the Tseshaht First Nation as a legacy project.
“In this program we were able to partner with the initiative being led by the Port Alberni Friendship Center and our students were able to start the building of the tiny homes that will be going up in our Port Alberni community,” said Dick.
NETP delivers programming that not only readies adults for employment, but also includes a cultural component.
“Through our NETP programs we can include elder support, essential skills training, traditional teachings, and more one-on-one support to our clients,” said Dick.
The students finish their on-site work on Dec. 9. They write their final exam the following week and will finish with a graduation ceremony set for Dec. 13.
“We are very proud of our NETP and PES (Pre Employment Supports) clients in the successful completion of the Carpentry Level 1 program and wish them the best in their future endeavors,” said Dick.
Successful graduates of the 14-week program will earn training certificates from North Island College.