Bothell High's Construction Academy, led by instructor Cal Pygott, won a KCTS Golden Apple Award. About 80 percent of the students who graduated from the program are in the construction industry.

Share story

Inside Bothell High School’s industrial-arts workshop, the wood frame of a miniature house is slowly taking shape as instructor Cal Pygott guides his 18 students in building a structure from the foundation up.

This is Construction Academy, and once students complete the yearlong course, they’ll know the basics of carpentry and construction.

Recently, the academy received a KCTS Golden Apple Award. The awards are handed out annually to honor a handful of teachers and programs statewide.

Pygott received $500 earlier this month as part of the award, plus a $1,500 grant for supporting classroom, school or educational programs. The money will likely go toward purchasing building materials or new tools, he said.

“Between now and 2012, nationwide we’re going to need one million new construction workers in all fields of construction,” Pygott said.

“What makes this a wonderful career is that so far, you can’t outsource it. All our electronics are coming from overseas, our clothes are coming from overseas … but you can’t import new highways, skyscrapers and bridges.”

The Construction Academy stood out from other programs because of its practical and hands-on approach that prepares students for the world of work, said Stefanie Malone, Golden Apple award-project director. The academy does a good job of preparing students for successful careers, Malone said.

Marc Tratar, 18, a senior, said that learning the basics of construction has given him a sense of accomplishment.

“When we first got here, some of us couldn’t hardly hammer a nail in straight,” Tratar said. “You may not think one-eighth of an inch off would matter, but he said we need to make sure to do it right.”

About 80 percent of the students who graduated from the program are still in the construction industry, Pygott said.

Students first learn about safety and construction math, before moving on to build an 8- by 12-foot miniature version of a single-story home, from the floors to the walls to the roof, Pygott said.

Then he sets them up with three-month paid internships on either residential or commercial job sites, where they’ll spend three or four hours a day learning hands-on, he said. The internship lets students earn credit toward an apprenticeship, which is usually done by adults who want to become craft workers or general contractors.

The seven-year-old program is part of the Northeast Vocational Area Cooperative, which allows students from other schools and districts to enroll. Currently, students from five high schools participate in the program, Pygott said.

Seniors get priority acceptance in the program, but juniors are allowed in if there’s room, Pygott said. Students can take the course twice and earn up to about 1 ½ years of credit toward a four-year apprentice program with the Construction Industry Training Council.

“Mr. Pygott doesn’t treat you like you’re young; he treats you like an adult, and as long as you act like one, it works out well,” said Evan Morrison, 18, a senior. “I really like working with my hands. I may want to continue with this program in college and go into construction management.”

Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637