Steven Donovan wants to stay in the family business — make that businesses.
He’s a 17-year-old senior at Kenmore High School who is learning the building trades by helping to put up a house on Akron’s Second Street Southwest — not far from Kenmore Boulevard.
For two hours each school day, he and classmates in an Akron Public Schools Education in Action program are building from the ground up, just like his father, Fred Donovan, does for a living.
This fall, he is learning plumbing and wiring. Ellet students are learning drywall. North students do heating and air conditioning systems.
Eventually, Steven would like to do it all.
“I want to learn a lot,” he said. “I don’t want to be stuck in one position in life.”
That’s another lesson he has learned from Michael McGill, his teacher at Kenmore: The more skills you learn, the more likely you are to be employed.
The house being built this fall is the 18th in the program, a collaboration of the school system, the city and Urban Neighborhood Development Corp. and the local chapter of the Home Builders Association. It is expected to be finished before Christmas.
McGill said the home will be sold for less than $90,000, the going rate for homes in that neighborhood. UNDC finances the material costs, which will exceed the selling price by about $20,000, but well worth it, he said.
In addition to providing marketable skills to the students, McGill has noticed the entire neighborhood starts to look better after a new house is built. One house might get painted. A little landscaping is done down the street. Needed repairs might finally be done at another.
UNDC Coordinator Darryl Kleinhenz said the students also learn the social skills needed to work together at a building site, something that can be overlooked.
Angela Weathers, 17, and a senior classmate of Steven’s, said she looks at house building as a career “if I learn a couple more things, maybe.”
She also learns from her father, Randy Weathers.
Sometimes the lessons are not the same. For example, her father doesn’t stress safety like the school teachers do, but his ways are faster.
Homework can be valuable.
Michael Greer, an 18-year-old Kenmore senior, said: “I do a lot of stuff at home. I know the cheapest way possible.”
But Greer might not take up home building as a full-time career. He wants to go to college and learn law enforcement.
Les Baker, a building trades teacher at Ellet, is also a contractor with ties to the industry and that puts him in position to tell his students what the employers really want.
Yes, hammering a nail straight is important.
“Oh, they get it right,” Baker said. “If they don’t, they tear it apart. Everything is to the ‘T’ here, as good as any house.”
But he said employers tell him it’s important for workers to show they can simply arrive on time.
“They want them [employees] young, but they also want the attendance records,” he said.
Construction partners in the project are Dynamic Construction, Galehouse Lumber, Concord Plumbing, Westport Electric and Trumbull Supply.
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.