Students complete another ECHO program home in Syracuse

Students from Davis Technical College and the Davis School District can definitely say they’ve made their mark on the world. At Tuesday’s open house for a student-built home in Syracuse, Scott Harmon of Utah Housing Corporation told students that every time they drive by the house they built, whether it’s now or in 15 years when they want to show their kids, they’ll remember every nail they drove in. He said their contribution goes beyond pipes and drywall–they built a house that a family will be able to call home.

The Educationally Constructed Housing Opportunities (ECHO) program trains students to build homes by hiring students as the supervised workforce. They receive hands-on training in construction trades while earning school credit. The houses are then sold to a household earning 80 percent or less of the area’s median income.

This program introduces students to trades that desperately need workers. “I get calls daily from employers asking me if I have any students ready to work,” said Bryce Chapman, Davis Technical College Plumbing Apprentice instructor.

Jared Taylor of Speirs Plumbing agreed with the need for skilled tradespeople in the Davis County area. He introduced a student worker who was recently hired at $14 an hour–before he’d even finished high school.

While these trades pay well, especially with experience, students work hard to develop the skills necessary to earn those wages. On the Syracuse home project, Davis School District teacher Rob Wilcox spoke about the students’ “blood, sweat and tears.” Whether students sweated through hot spring days or froze through early January mornings, their work had to be perfect. “It’s not like a regular school class where you get your assignment back with a red pen and you pass with 80%,” Wilcox said. “Everything has to meet code, and if it’s not done right, you have to do it again.”

Wilcox reminded his students that his job was not just to teach them their trades, but to encourage them to become good people. The house project was a way to achieve that goal, especially for the students who saw the home through to completion.

“The ECHO program allows the students to have a sense of purpose, community and civic involvement,” said Grant Whitaker, President of Utah Housing Corporation. “This is something that, for years to come, the students can point to and say, ‘I helped to build that.’”