In fall 2023, Habitat for Humanity and Pueblo Community College agreed to collaborate and build a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom home at 31 E. 12th St. in Cortez. It became official in October.
Higher Purpose Homes also joined the partnership, helping build most of the roof for the home.
“Higher Purpose was an amazing partner,” said Perry Pepper, PCC director of Academic Services.
According to Pepper, 11 students from PCC’s National Center for Construction Education & Research carpentry class helped build the house by learning how to build floors, walls and roofs.
“Students pursuing a career or working in the field of carpentry, construction and home building were empowered by this project,” Pepper said.
Habitat for Humanity’s new executive director, Rob Galin, said the students learned valuable skills while taking part in building the home.
“The students are learning a lot,” Galin said. “They did a really good job so far. I would definitely trust them to help build something for me.”
This class is part of the new, 16-credit construction certificate offered by PCC. It includes three industry credentials and a four-credit internship that allows students to work with local contractors and get experience in a construction setting.
“This semester, several students that built and stood up the house on 12th Street are using their internship time to continue work on the house,” Pepper said. “They look forward to building their first set of stairs, setting doors and windows and running the exterior trim.”
Along with the new construction certificate, students can also take the new NCCER electrical course where they will learn electrical theory, the National Electric Code and more.
“This is a great way for students to get exposed to these trades and develop basic skills for employment in the industry. All anyone has to do is try and schedule any of these trades and the two week wait will attest to their demand,” Perry said.
To continue growing and improving the new program, Perry shared that PCCSW hired Kelsie Condon to teach construction at the campus full time.
Pepper said that he bore the brunt of the instruction last semester and is “very happy” with Condon’s hire.
“Kelsie has an extensive background as an iron worker, construction and mechanical which makes her the ideal candidate to anchor the program,” Perry added.
Galin said that the students helping build the home helped Habitat for Humanity with their mission, “to help build homes for people so that they have a permanent and stable place to live.”
“They’re giving service back to the community and learning a valuable trade,” Galin said.
When asked how he thought the first year went, Perry told The Journal, “Amazing. I couldn’t believe that we did it. It’s one of these things that we had this dream. We had the vision and everybody was on board with it, and we achieved it.”
In the fall, the construction program will be helping build another house.
“We want potential students to know that this program exists,” Pepper said. “Construction is an in-demand job in our region and it can pay really well.”
Now, the campus has a carpenter/contractor and a master electrician who will be helping support construction as the program continues to move forward.
“This allows us to continue providing quality instruction focused on skill development in the trades of carpentry and electrical. Both are in high demand,” Pepper said.
Out of the seven students to graduate from the program this spring, five Ute Mountain Ute tribal members will graduate.
“For the fall, we will also be working with the tribe and area high schools to offer this opportunity to them as well as the community at large,” Pepper said.
Enrollment for the campus’s fall classes and construction cohort will begin March 11. They hope to enroll 11-12 students in the upcoming construction program.
“We also hope to continue our program development by offering courses in project supervision and management enabling the students graduating this spring with a certificate an opportunity to develop management skills by taking more of a leadership role in the next house build at the supervisor level,” Perry said.
Those who are interested in the program for the fall or providing internship opportunities for PCC students can visit the school’s website at https://pueblocc.edu/programs/com.