Ballenas teacher Byron Ayers, right, and his Construction 11-12 class stand beneath a timber frame structure on Thursday, June 22, that they and other students have been working on in front of the school since September, 2016. — Adam Kveton

Strong structure by Parksville’s future tradespeople

Ballenas students finishing up year-long timber frame project

It will provide cover for bikes at Ballenas Secondary School, but the timber frame project has already done much more than that.

Ballenas students have worked on every aspect of the project: from engineering and designing work to concrete pouring, rebar, welding and wood construction to create a 10-foot by 40-foot timber frame structure in front of the school.

After spending a full school year on it, with various students and classes taking part, Byron Ayers’ Construction 11-12 class is nearly finished this June.

It’s one of several large construction projects he and his students have done over the years, including a timber frame greenhouse, picnic tables and various drama sets.

But projects like this continue to address a problem in both B.C. and Canada, said Ayers.

“We have such a shortage of skilled people in this province and all over Canada,” he said.

But more and more students are gaining interest in trade skills, and taking part in these sorts of projects.

“This is a great way for them to cut their teeth and see if it’s something they want to do,” said Ayers.

“I felt like I was working on a real job site,” said Noah Seselja, one of the Construction 11-12 students. That included work in the sun and the rain alike; nonetheless, he said, the class makes him more interested in trades as a future prospect.

Payten Werbecky, the only girl in the class, said she’s impressed with what she and her classmates were able to produce.

“Considering half of these people, it’s their first year doing this… pouring concrete, learning how to use tools we’ve never used before, I think it’s come along pretty well.”

Ayers estimated that it would probably take a professional, three-person crew about three weeks to build the structure, but the project isn’t about getting it finished quickly.

It’s a learning opportunity, and a major savings for the school.

He said the school could be saving as much as $30,000 in construction cost by having students work on it, while teaching them a variety of trade skills.

The structure also ties in aesthetically to the school’s timber accents, he said.

The final touches on the project will be finished early next year — stone work around the concrete sections.

Ayers said he has further plans for more timber frame structures for the school in the next few years.