A New Generation of City Builders

Engagement programs invite young Calgarians to contribute.

Mayor Peter Brown and MLA Angela Pitt pose with some of the Grade 10 students in the Building Futures program, Image Source

The urban environment affects everyone, including our youngest residents – and young people need to be involved with decisions about how our city grows. In Calgary and Alberta, several programs are engaging younger residents with the development process, from shovels in the ground to seats at the policy table.

Building Futures

When the Building Futures program holds its end-of-year Celebration of Learning each June, it’s literally an open-house event. More than 30 Grade 10 students from Airdrie and Crossfield have spent the entire school year off-campus, working at a building site. At the celebration the students show off the project they completed under the guidance of trades professionals: two houses built from the foundation up.

The program, a partnership between Rocky View Schools and McKee Homes, just wrapped up its fifth year. More than 160 students have participated. Hear from some of the students and educators who participated in the program in this video from Rocky View Schools.

Building Futures began when Greg Rankin and Jarett Hooper, teachers at George MacDougall High School in Airdrie, began brainstorming new ways to deliver education. They wanted to engage students and teach them to work hard while connecting classroom subjects with real world applications. Rankin and Hooper delivered a 2017 TEDxYYC Talk on the goals and outcomes of the program.

“It’s about student engagement. The kids show up each day and they’re excited to do challenging tasks and engage in interesting work.”

- Greg Rankin, Educator, at a 2017 TEDxYYC talk on Building Futures

On the building site, students pour concrete, frame the house, install mechanical systems and windows, do interior design and even write the sales listing. While Building Futures gets students excited about construction, it’s intended to be a learning tool, not a trade school. In the process of learning to build a house, the students also improve their numeracy, literacy, and problem-solving abilities.

Work Experience

In 2014, Brookfield Residential, Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta, the Calgary Board of Education, and the Professional Home Builders Institute launched a joint project to involve high school students in the home-building process.

Youth Building for a Better Tomorrow gave Calgary high school students hands-on experience building a house as part of an affordable housing initiative. Along with new skills, participating students gained work experience credits and earned an industry-recognized Residential Construction Site Manager Level 1 accreditation – an excellent launching pad to a future in the building industry.   

Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta has ongoing opportunities for Albertans 18 and over as Work Experience Volunteers. These volunteers work 10 shifts at Habitat for Humanity building sites or in ReStores, learning skills like framing, insulation, drywall, and painting, and earning a certificate to include in future job applications.

Minister’s Youth Council

The success of hands-on programs like Building Futures suggests students value alternatives to classroom education. The province is finding new ways to engage students by hearing their ideas at the policy level.

Alberta Education Minister David Eggen is welcoming students to weigh in on the province’s K-12 curriculum as part of the Minister’s Youth Council. In early 2018, he put out the call for applications for the 2018 – 2019 school year. Any junior or senior high school student in Alberta can apply, but only about 30 will be chosen – representing range of backgrounds and experiences. These students will meet Eggen in Edmonton three times during the school year (in September, February, and May) to share their perspectives on educational issues.

By having student voices at the table, the Minister and Alberta Education hope to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of our schools. These consultations are intended to guide decisions about our education system so that we can prepare young people to contribute to the growth of the province.

City Hall School

City Hall School, a partnership between Campus Calgary and Calgary Neighbourhood Services, invites students from Grades 3 to 12 to spend a week at the municipal building. Here, students work with City of Calgary employees and meet with Council members, learning about civic participation and what goes into running a city. The learning experience is custom-designed, but it can include:

  • Developing a community for the future.
  • Working with City planners to learn how cities grow and change.
  • Learning about social issues with issue strategists from the Community and Neighbourhood Services.

Campus Calgary provides other learning opportunities that take children out of the classroom for a week and place them at sites like Arts Commons, Telus Spark, and the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area. At these sites, they’re engaged with a range of ideas and skills, from science and conservation to citizenship and innovation. Like the Grade 10 house builders, these students are allowed to make connections between the curriculum and the real world.

Careers: The Next Generation

Young people need opportunities and employers need talent – especially the building industry, which accounts for an astonishing 10.5% of total employment in Alberta. Careers: The Next Generation is non-profit organization that works province-wide to pair students and employers, and to help young Albertans take their first steps down future career paths.

The organization educates students about employment options in trades, technologies, and health care, and provides hands-on learning opportunities.

Through Careers: The Next Generation, students can access:

  • Student workshops and parent evenings.
  • Career expos and industry showcases.
  • Career camps.
  • Job shadow opportunities and virtual online job experiences.
  • Paid internships.

Calgary Youth Employment Centre (YEC)

This organization works with local business and youth agencies to connect Calgarians between 15 and 24 with career-development opportunities. In addition to hiring fairs and work experience opportunities, the YEC provides (free of charge):

  • Workshops on resume and interview preparation.
  • Courses in career planning and life skills.
  • Office equipment.
  • Career advisory services.
  • Access to industry training certificates, including Construction Safety Training Systems (CSTS).

Buildings for Future Builders

A group of Calgary home builders joined forces to support an addition to the SAIT campus in 2010. They contributed $1 million to build the state-of-the-art Trades and Technology Complex, which creates 3,600 additional spaces for students at the institute.

Industry support is also responsible for the Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies at the University of Calgary, which was created in 2013 to nurture the next generation of real estate professionals. Calgary’s building and real estate industry contributed more than $7 million to the Centre’s development, including $5 from Jayman Built CEO Jay Westman.

Scholarship Programs

Working in partnership with the Haskayne School of Business and the Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies at the University of Calgary, Brookfield Residential established a scholarship program in 2017. The program will provide a total of $85,000 in financial assistance to nine students over three years. Scholarships are intended for students pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a concentration or specialization in real estate studies, a field that covers concepts like financial analysis, land use, planning, and trends in urbanization.

It’s not the first time Brookfield Residential has offered funding to students. When the company purchased Albi Homes in 2015, it honoured the founders of Albi by creating five student scholarships. The funds, amounting to $100,000, were awarded to students at the School of Construction at SAIT and the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary.

Brookfield Residential isn’t the only developer supporting real-estate education in Calgary. Melcor Development Ltd. offers a scholarship of up to $9000 annually to an academically promising student pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce at the Haskayne School of Business, who has completed a “Basics of Real Estate” course.

As Calgary grows and evolves, so will our building industry, and it’s not just young people who need to be engaged. People of all ages can get involved with the decisions, plans, and actions that shape the future of our city. Find out 10 Ways to Have Your Say on the issues that affect us all.

Published
June 5th, 2018
Updated: June 6th, 2018


From trade internships to council seats, these programs are getting the Calgary region’s youngest citizens involved in building, planning, and policy.


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