Student carpenters celebrate the end of this year’s Residential Construction Program

Jamie Brooks-Hill was ready and willing to saw up the cake provided by Okanagan College on Tuesday to mark the end of this year's Residential Construction Program. He and fellow students Brian Luscombe, Guy Brisebois, Tyson McKinney, Cameron Lamacchia, Carla Mervyn, Eddie Edmonds and Jeff Shirray said they valued the instruction they received. David F. Rooney photo

By David F. Rooney

Ask the students enrolled in this year’s Okanagan College Residential Construction Program and you’ll find they greatly valued their instruction and the options it gives them for the future.

“I like being able to stand back and look at what we’ve done,” Cameron Lamacchia said at a lunch-hour pizza and cake party at the Oscar Street building site where he and his seven classmates have been busy working on the Revelstoke Community Housing Society’s new rental duplex.

For Jamie Brooks-Hill the course gave him a new perspective on house construction.

“I built my own house,” he said. “That’s one thing, but it’s different from building something for someone else.”

The party was attended by college officials and by Mayor David Raven and the directors of the RCHS who were very appreciative of the students’ efforts.

“This is a big step for Revelstoke,” Raven said. “Rental values are so out of whack here and now we’re building homes I or anyone else can afford.”

The mayor was bang on about that. Try and rent a house in the fall or winter and you’ll quickly discover that it will set you back $2,000 or more. These two units will go much, much less than that — perhaps as low as $1,200 a month — and there’s more to come.

There are plans for a rental complex geared specifically for people with disabilities and limited incomes and, of course, there is the Bridge Creek site at the corner of Oscar and Powerhouse Road. That hasn’t gotten off the ground yet but it could, once it is built, be the heart of an affordable community of owner-occupied homes.

Janet Lemieux, the Residential Construction Program coordinator, would like to see college students involved in these projects, too, but she has to keep a close — and realistic — eye on enrolment.

“I think we won’t have the program ready to go for the next two years, largely because we have to have enough students enrolled to make it work,” she said.

That’s understandable.

As RCHS Director Glenn O’Reilly noted: “We have so many people today who want office jobs but who’s going to build those offices? We need good tradesmen to build those offices.

“This is what happens when you have people with purpose. And you guys have purpose.”

RCHS Director Peter Bernacki, who is himself a carpenter, agreed and noted that the duplex was built swiftly after the RCHS decided to go for it this spring. Besides, he said, “being a carpenter is a heck of a good career choice.”

Judging by their enthusiasm today, the college’s apprentice carpenters would certainly agree.