Teaching Preservation Skills


DATE:        January 19, 2014
CONTACT:    Nancy Finegood
PHONE:    517-371-8080
E-MAIL:    Finegood@mhpn.org
WEB:        www.mhpn.org                       

Michigan Historic Preservation Network, Young Detroit Builders
Partner to Teach Preservation Skills

Lansing, MI: Statewide, historic buildings are suffering from a lack
of tradespeople who know how to maintain and repair them. Young
construction professionals, meanwhile, often struggle to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive economy. A
partnership between the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and
Young Detroit Builders seeks to address both these issues,
introducing a preservation-related vocational skills curriculum to an
initial class of about a dozen students.

“Can you make a good living doing historic preservation?” asked Jim
Turner, owner of Turner Restoration and one of the program's
instructors. “Well, it's possible,” he declared, as he advised
students that specialization — along with hard work and a degree of
luck — will be required to carve a niche for oneself in a challenging

“The era of a general education, of a liberal arts degree, is over,”
said Turner. He spoke to the students at an introductory session in

Young Detroit Builders, a YouthBuild USA organization, provides a
comprehensive, ten-month academic program — typically leading to a GED — to adults ages 18-24 who did not complete high school.
Counseling, leadership training, and a small living allowance are
also included. To provide its students with job skills, a construction trades component is a key part of the curriculum.

Many YDB students also serve as AmeriCorps members, contributing community service hours on construction projects around the city and earning an educational stipend.

Shayna Cottrell, who works for Young Detroit Builders as a learning
center specialist, also takes classes through the program. “Most
people don't live in newer homes,” she said. “Houses built before
1978 have lead issues, and many houses have older windows. We worked with one student, who commented that the new replacement windows in his houses were drafty and he was still cold.”

“The instructors are very interested in correlating classroom
instruction with the challenges we face in everyday life,” added
Cottrell one week into MHPN's series of workshops, which began last
Tuesday. Cottrell came to Young Detroit Builders to work with its
Detroit-based Contractor Incubator Program, and is currently studying for a residential builder's license.

“I'm working to learn the skills I need to be profitable as an
entrepreneur,” she said.

While some of the program will take place in the classroom, much of it will take place in the field, as students will have the
opportunity to participate firsthand in the rehabilitation of
buildings around the city. YDB students and MHPN instructors have
been invited to participate in ongoing masonry and plaster work at
city-owned Fort Wayne, where a collection of military structures
dating from the 1850s have suffered from deferred maintenance and are being rehabilitated by volunteers and the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition. YDB maintains partnerships with organizations such as the United Community Housing Coalition, providing home repair services to low-income residents.

Over the past decade, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network has pioneered the introduction of preservation-related trades training to high school students and young adults. In 2006 MHPN instructors inaugurated a preservation skills curriculum at Randolph Career and Technical Center, a Detroit high school, and in 2008 began a collaboration with the Calhoun Area Career Center in Battle Creek, Mich.


The Michigan Historic Preservation Network is a non-profit
organization that advocates for Michigan’s historic places to
contribute to the state’s economic vitality, sense of place, and
connection to its past. Field assistance for local preservation
efforts is provided by MHPN and may be funded through their revolving loan program. For more information, call Nancy Finegood at 517-371-8080, e-mail finegood@mhpn.org, or visit the MHPN website at www.mhpn.org.


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