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(Janesville, WI) By Nick Crow, Gazette

Craig and Parker seniors working on this year's student home build are being groomed for potential careers, but they also are learning skills and trades that will benefit them for the rest of their lives, student adviser Joe Cruzan said.

"They get the personal satisfaction of completing a project," Cruzan said. "They get to work with actual tradesmen and have done pretty much everything to build the home."

The students began the project in September with a poured basement and have done almost everything short of some electrical, heating and plumbing work, Cruzan said.

"They get exposure to all of it," Cruzan said. "They're learning skills they will be able to use forever."

In its seventh year of sponsorship by the South Central Wisconsin Builders Association, the home build is done in collaboration with the school district's Advanced Construction classes.

Each year, the builders association buys a lot, and a member volunteers to be general contractor and arranges for vendors and subcontractors to supply advice and donations or discounted materials to the students. At the end of the school year, the house is sold at market rate, and proceeds are used to finance future home builds and scholarships for students.

"The students have done five homes on North Wright Road, and they all have different general characteristics," said Carol Engebretson, executive officer for the builders association.

"The biggest reason we did this is to provide the opportunity for these kids. This is showing them these are the jobs in the building industry. If they don't decide to pursue a career, they've learned life skills."

The program is one of the best offered by the association, Engebretson said.

"I think I get my biggest pleasure out of parents who come through at the end," Engebretson said. "They are always wide-eyed and surprised at what the kids have accomplished. We're helping to bring up the next generation of builders in the industry."

Craig senior Colin Hirsch said he took part in the program because he has always been interested in the building trades.

"It's awesome," Hirsch said. "There are skills I've learned here that I'll remember for life."

Hirsch said he isn't sure if he will pursue a career in construction, but he feels accomplished and proud of what he and his classmates did.

"There was a lot of hard work put in here," Hirsch said. "It was a real life experience."

Parker senior Dominic Fisk plans to pursue a degree in architecture. He said the hands-on learning he got from the home build will help him with his career because it taught him to be more detail oriented.

"It's preparing us for our actual career," Fisk said. "People will be amazed. Astounded, maybe. I can't wait until someone buys it and lives in it."

Doug Marklein, this year's general contractor, said he loves the experience of helping  students mature throughout the process.

"We might get students who would go into the field or at the very least future homeowners who will have a greater appreciation for what goes into a home," Marklein said. "It teaches them life skills, home maintenance, teamwork, being able to start and finish a project. It's a testament to their skill and perseverance."

Marklein said he was surprised at how well the students did their work and how fast they were able to do it.

"This is experience they can put on their resume," Marklein said. "Where else can you use a hammer and tools and learn something while on the job?"

Tim Weber, education committee chairman for the builders association, said the number of students interested in the program grows each year. This year, 20 students were involved.

"We've had many of these kids through the years go on to careers in this," Weber said. "A lot of engineers, electricians, architects. We hope to activate interest and give them some direction."

This year's home is already on the market and will be officially completed in early June.

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