Building their future

A new Regional Occupational Program at Brea Olinda High School targets both college-bound and workforce-ready students and introduces them to the multi-facets of the construction industry.

The Building Industry Technology Academy covers design, woodwork, framing and roofing while also simulating a real-world work environment to get students on a career-driven path.

The academy was introduced in 2001 at Katella High School. Valencia High School in Placentia and Western High School in Anaheim also teach the building courses.

Brea is the fourth Orange County high school to implement the curriculum.

Until now, BOHS had offered traditional wood shop classes, but this academy goes above and beyond previous standards, instructor Javier Belmares said.

The four-year course starts with building basics -- learning how to measure and cut wood and make angles. But as the classes progress, the projects get more complicated.

Students learn how to do housing framework, build a dog house, install cabinets and draw up blueprints.

Their final project, completed in the fourth year, will be a scale model home that complies with state code building standards.

"I just really like the hands-on (aspect) of the class," student Josh Zamora, 16 said. "I want to go into the building industry some day."

By completing the class, Zamora will have a leg up on the competition. Each student who graduates with a grade of "B" or better in the class will get a letter of recommendation, which could be the key to landing a lucrative job, Belmares said.

Sadie Reeves, 14, said she has toyed with the idea of starting a construction firm with her mom, thanks to the class.

"I thought it would be interesting to learn about construction," she said. "My mom and I think it would be kind of cool to have a girl's construction business."

Besides hands-on experience, the program also exercises skills learned in the student's required curriculum courses such as math, geometry and comprehension, Belmares said.

While the class lays a solid foundation for students interested in going in to construction out of high school, the academy also benefits those on the academic track.

Course work can be applied to students interested in pursuing architecture, design or construction management, said Jim McWilliam, career technical education coordinator.

"Kids that go through the program are exposed to all the trades," McWilliam said. "If they want to continue their education, they have the basic knowledge to branch out."

The school is currently pushing to get the class to have transferable college credits.

McWilliam added the class is even beneficial for those who don't want to pursue construction as a career.

"Even if they don't go into the business it will help them when they own a house," he said. "They'll understand more about how things work and they won't get ripped off."

CUTTING CLASS:Jose Novela, a junior, cuts a two-by-four for his construction class.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES:Instructor Javier Belmares summons a student to pick up his measuring tape and a tool for aligning cuts.