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Concrete Lessons: FDSH Building and Trades Class Give Hands-on Learning - from The Messenger

September 23, 2020

A class at Fort Dodge Senior High aims to give students an introductory view of skilled trades and hands-on experience before they even graduate.

On Tuesday morning, the Building and Trades class, along with help from the Home Maintenance and Repair class, laid and set a concrete slab outside the garage at the Fort Dodge Kennel Club, 210 10th St. N.W.

“We try to get them real-life experience,” instructor Kevin Wedeking said of his students. “The carpentry class and building class built this garage.”

The class works with community partners to create hands-on projects the trades classes can work on throughout Fort Dodge, Wedeking said. The business, individual or organization supplies the materials for the project, while the FDSH class supplies the labor, with the exception of plumbing and electrical work, which requires licenses.

“I always get nervous with concrete work because it’s guaranteed to get hard,” Wedeking joked during Tuesday’s project as students carefully smoothed out the leveled surface of the wet concrete before it could cure.

Student smoothing out wet concrete

As an instructor in the industrial tech department for the past four years — and a master plumber himself — Wedeking sees skilled trades and apprenticeships as another avenue of success outside of four years of college, as well as useful knowledge to have in general.

“There’s such a high demand in skilled trades and a lot of the things that you do in these projects apply to other industries,” he said. “There’s a carryover of what we do with this to so many other skill sets. At a minimum, it makes them very good homeowners and they get an idea of what something should take for labor and materials.”

Junior Jake Erickson, one of seven students in the Building and Trades class this trimester, said taking these courses is giving him a jump start on the career he plans to have one day.

“It’s fun hanging out with the boys, learning new things and I’ll do something like it in the future, so it’s a little head start,” he said.

Putting up the frame for the garage at the Kennel Club during a carpentry class last year has been Erickson’s favorite project so far.

Students working with wet concrete“That was probably the best and most fun I’ve had,” he said.

Senior Charlie Gailey likes the involvement required for this class.

“I feel like I learn more when I am hands-on doing it, rather than when I’m sitting at a desk all day,” he said.

The school is always looking for new projects and hands-on opportunities for the students.

“This is good experience for these guys,” Wedeking explained. “We’re always welcoming new partnerships with local contractors and construction people.”

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