Work-based learning in the real world

May 06, 2024


Work-based learning (WBL) opportunities offer students an arena in which to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios. WBL students engage in hands-on experiences that mirror professional environments. And they gain practical skills. But the benefits extend beyond skill acquisition.

WBL students can gain a sense of social responsibility through community service. They develop empathy, cultural competence and a deeper understanding of societal issues. Through teamwork, communication, problem solving and adaptability, students learn to navigate diverse work environments effectively. These interpersonal competencies complement technical proficiency, ensuring students are well-rounded and prepared for the challenges of the modern workforce.

Work-based learning in the real world

The Randolph-Roanoke Career Tech Center (RRCTC) in Wedowee, Alabama, has joined forces with Habitat for Humanity of Randolph County on a project that could transform residential housing design and construction. The project follows a design concept developed by a retired high school construction and architectural drawing and design teacher. This innovative approach to housing development combines micro living design trends — with system-built (or modular) efficiencies and speed — and traditional, stick-built construction with conventional materials. In Alabama, they’re using a hybrid off- and on-site build process to construct unique micro box-style homes.


The product

The product is created by stacking boxes in a unique manner, ultimately rendering a modern architectural style in a uniquely designed, cool-looking configuration. An important feature of the individual boxes is their “micro” size. They are designed to be built on, or loaded onto, standard deck-over trailers for over-the-road transportation within the Department of Transportation limits. This means the boxes can be easily and economically delivered to job sites with half-ton pickup trucks — and without any need for wide-load flags and banners or escort vehicles!

The process

The process begins with construction and site plans. Singleton Designs LLC, developed and donated the home plans. And the site is located on one of four half-acre lots nearby. As the site is developed, a foundation will be built by Habitat for Humanity contractors. Then the RRCTC Construction program students will complete the framing of four structural modules. Framing includes waterproof exterior sheathing and roof decking. Students will also install windows and exterior doors off site and, with collaboration and support from the professional contractors, they may rough-in the plumbing and electrical too.

The process continues on site with a small crane and rigging crew to place and anchor the boxes to the foundation, and stitch and seal the joints. Now it’s ready for exterior surfaces and trim and the installation of mechanicals; the construction process will proceed to completion. Finally, Habitat will receive the keys to a house that will be someone’s home.

The opportunities for learning

This WBL project offers a strong example of how fostering workforce development can help address the needs of the underserved in our communities. In the landscape of today’s evolving workforce, CTE programs play a pivotal role in preparing students for success beyond the classroom. One innovative avenue for student growth lies in the partnership between Randolph Roanoke Career Tech Center and Habitat for Humanity. This collaboration not only fosters career exploration among students but also cultivates essential employability skills and promotes community service.

Students emerge as competent, compassionate and empowered individuals. And truthfully, everyone wins in this scenario. Habitat for Humanity advances its vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live, and CTE educators have established partnerships to provide high-quality technical training. The Wedowee, Alabama, community’s economy benefits, and the new homeowners do as well! Embracing such innovative approaches not only enriches educational experiences but also lays the foundation for a brighter tomorrow.

Larry Singleton is a retired CTE teacher and a residential designer.

Logan Cofield is director of the Randolph-Roanoke Career Tech Center.


Read more in Techniques: Workforce Development in Underserved Communities.

# # # # # #