The adults headed back to school in the fall of 2018.
“We started on September 4th, classroom work,” student Phillip Cardinal explained. “So we have to get our tickets and do our training so we can actually build on construction sites first.”
He and his classmates earned tickets in carpentry, electrical and plumbing over the course of the winter.
“Initiatives like this also build up the workforce, the skills for the people who have all been involved,” said program facilitator Chevi Rabbit.
Earning the tickets was a big deal to the students, many of whom were unemployed before enrolling in the tiny home program.
“They mean a whole lot — they’ll help me out in the working world,” said Garrett Cattleman. “I am going to put out my applications and see where that takes me.”
The project was funded by Montana First Nation — which is part of the Maskwacis community — as well as Trade Winds for Success and the Alberta government.
Through the winter, the group worked outside five days a week – right in the middle of the community.
“You can see the construction happening and a lot of the band members were excited. It’s something new and it’s exciting,” Rabbit said.
The students built the houses to the lock and key stage. The roofs are on and the walls are up.
When the houses are finished, they will feature solar panels from Green Arrow Corporation. Then they’ll be given to people in need through housing applications.
“It makes me really happy inside to know that somebody who doesn’t have a home right now is going to get a home,” Cattleman said.
Last year, Louis Bull First Nation built three tiny homes and in the end, one was given to one of the students.
“There is a housing crisis for first nations communities right across Canada. This could be a potential solution if bands want,” Rabbit said.
The tiny homes are meant for single people. The hands on program also motivated its students to pursue their dreams.
“I really want to achieve what I want to do. I’ve had some up and downs along the way, but mostly for these kids,” Cardinal said while motioning to the child on his lap. “I want to set a better example for these kids.”
The grads were allowed to challenge a test at NAIT to use their newfound skills to skip their first year of classes there, should they decide to further their education in construction.
For those that want to immediately enter the workforce, the hope is that the graduating students will be hired by Montana First Nation to finish construction.
“I’m excited for them. I’m glad they’re moving on and I’m really proud of Montana for bringing this project to life,” said the program’s executive director, Vicki Wetchie.
“I hope others get more exciting construction in their communities.”