Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm
A red brick house in the Walker’s Point neighborhood on Milwaukee’s south side has been under renovation for about two years.
Workers at the home along South Fourth Street near National Avenue have gutted the entire house, replaced its roof and windows and installed a new furnace, wiring and duct work for its heating, cooling and air conditioning system.
They are still completing drywall and carpentry work, and they have yet to install fixtures including kitchen and bathroom appliances.
Although the work schedule sounds like it has taken more time than it should, the construction crews are only able to work on the job site for about three hours per day. That’s because the work is being done by students in the construction academy at the Bradley Technology and Trade School, just two blocks from the site, where they learn skills necessary to become architects, electricians, plumbers or carpenters.
The students in the construction program select one of four areas of concentration at the end of their sophomore years, said Willie Sinclair Jr., construction academy chairman and president of Bradley Tech Construction Inc., a nonprofit agency founded to help fund the program.
The students handle the parts of the project that match their areas of concentration.
The home renovation should be completed by mid-June, when the high school seniors working on it will graduate, Sinclair said. The house, purchased from the Milwaukee Department of City Development for $1, will then be sold for fair market value.
Prior to the acquisition, the house had been vacant, with holes in its roof and without any residents paying local property taxes on it.
Because of the house’s poor condition, it presented students a wide range of construction experiences, including demolition, laying concrete for new sidewalks and planning for many repairs.
This is the first house that Bradley Tech Construction Inc. has renovated. Milwaukee Public Schools once funded a similar program, but that program was discontinued recently due to budget cuts, Sinclair said.
Bradley Tech Construction Inc. was established, Sinclair said, to help fund the purchase of homes suitable for rehabilitation and to sell the homes once they are completed. The nonprofit operation will use proceeds from the home sales to help fund future rehabilitation projects, he said.
The community is served on two levels by the Bradley Tech construction project, Sinclair said. It gets homes put back onto the tax rolls and teaches the students skills that will help them make the transition into real jobs in the trades.
"This is a real world, hands on project," Sinclair said. "We make sure our kids are well equipped to function in the world of work or the world of academia."
However, seniors, who have their "shop" block in the mornings, take a two-block walk over to the house under renovation on Fourth Street, where they take on a variety of jobs.
Plumbing students already have placed a new furnace and hot water heater in the basement and have put new piping in the home’s upper two floors.
Carpentry students have repaired holes in the roof and installed new floors and windows.
Students studying electricity and wiring have installed a new electrical system.
An important part of the construction curriculum is teaching students about design and state codes, so they learn how to plan and install systems, said Sinclair and Wayne Klopf, plumbing instructor for the school.
"I have to teach them exactly the way the state code is written," Klopf said. "They have to design (the plans), they have to order all of the materials, and when we come to the site, we break them down into crews and they do it."
At the high school, Sinclair said, teachers in the construction academy work with students on designing different systems. Students start with a T-square and paper, then move to computer-assisted drafting.
The students who work on the house receive experience with real working conditions, including inspections from the City of Milwaukee, while being sure to follow OSHA regulations and use power tools properly, Klopf said.
The experience, Klopf and Sinclair said, is designed to prepare students to go into the workforce, an adult apprenticeship, a two-year technical college program or four-year college after they graduate from high school.
"After they get out of here, we open a lot of doors for apprenticeships," Klopf said. "We’re linked up with all of the unions, and they can walk right into it. We’re also linked up with MATC, and they take many of the students that don’t get apprenticeships. It’s a super win situation for any inner city kid who wants to get into the trades."
The program has working relationships with trade unions such as the Electrical Workers Local 494, Sheet Metal Workers 18 and Iron Workers Local 8, Sinclair said.
Some seniors, Klopf said, are already working for contractors later in the day, after school.
The students who are studying plumbing in the construction academy and will graduate this summer include Caleb Cribb, Robert Pollard, Brian Damske, Octavia Dodson and Kylan Hughes. The students said they are planning to apply for apprenticeship programs this summer, but have applied to MATC as a backup plan.
Once the house is completed, all of the students will work together on landscaping to finish the project, and the house will be sold.
Bradley Tech Construction Inc. officials then will start looking for another building, which must be near the school.
"We’re taking a house that wasn’t on the market and we’re fixing it up, putting it out in the market and on the tax rolls," he said. "The kids are learning life-long skills. It’s a win for students, the school and the state."
April 15, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI