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The Houses That Build Students, Launch Careers

In September, 2018, the brick and stucco house that now stands at 2578 South Beagley Circle in West Valley City was little more than a concrete foundation. Associate professor Boyd Johnson was taking a handful of Salt Lake Community College students through the first phases of framing the structure under a blistering summer sun.

It was a similar beginning to many of the homes with a Beagley Circle address. They started out as SLCC project houses built by students, and they’ve ended up as ranch-style homes with full unfinished basements for folks who don’t mind having a few horses for neighbors in this transitioning, once-rural enclave in the Salt Lake Valley.

By this past spring, the final SLCC project house in that area was completed. A few of the proud students who worked on the project showed up for an open house on a cool, breezy day in May. Along with Johnson, instructor Chad Fail and some SLCC support staff from the college’s Construction Management program, they surveyed and admired the culmination of months of hard work.

“It’s been a great experience,” says Ricardo Herrera, looking around a large, sparkling open kitchen and dining area. “I love all of this stuff.”

Herrera, 19, first came to SLCC thinking he was going to take a cabinet-making class. But he heard of the wide range of skills he could learn through the Construction Management curriculum and started thinking bigger. In 2020 he expects to graduate with an associate’s degree in the program. Someday he would like to be a contractor and build or flip homes.

Every Tuesday and Thursday since last summer, Herrera, Brendon Moser and Landon Bangerter, the three students who showed up for the open house, would be at the job site in West Valley City, tools at the ready.

Brendon Moser (l-r), Ricardo Herrera and Landon Bangerter

Moser, 22, had some drafting skills and a bit of construction DNA in his system by way of his uncle and father, but the experience of building a home starting with studs was new to him. Though his future is probably as a fire sprinkler engineer, Moser is certain of one thing. “I’ll build my own home, and I’ll know how to build it right, thanks to Boyd (Johnson),” he says.

“I absolutely loved this program. I loved the interaction between students and teachers, and I loved the program and the way it’s set up. I’ve learned a lot that I can actually use in my life. This program has taught me a lot about how to make money and how to be successful.”

Johnson, who has been with SLCC since 2006, estimates students in that time have worked on about 20 project houses around the Wasatch Front, including Herriman, Park City, Heber and West Jordan. “I see students gain a lot of knowledge and understanding of how construction works,” he says. “I try to keep them involved in every aspect of the build.” Enrollment has been increasing since fiscal year 2015, up from 131 students to 167 in FY 2018. About 10 percent of each student body, Johnson notes, are females. “My biggest goal is to find students a good job so they can make a good living in a career they love,” he adds. “I love to build. That’s the main reason I’m still in it. I just love taking a piece of ground, building a home on it and knowing someone will live in it the rest of their lives.”

Boyd Johnson (right) guides students through the framing process.

Once the houses are complete, usually about one house per year, they’re listed and sold. The previous SLCC project house next door in Beagley Circle sold for about $400,000, a little below the price for this newest listing. The profits from each sale are put into an account to help finance construction of the next house. The lots for the next five project houses are located at about 3200 South and 3000 West in West Valley City.

Moser, who has financed his education at SLCC solely with scholarships, and Bangerter expect to graduate at the end of 2019 with two degrees, associate of applied science and associate of science, both in Construction Management through SLCC’s School of Applied Technology and Technical Specialties. Classroom work includes OSHA, law and math, all specific to construction and owning a business. Students gain hands-on experience in framing and finishing carpentry, flooring, drywalling and cabinet making. And upon completion they’re ready for jobs as construction managers, first-line supervisors, carpenters, cost estimators and more.

Bangerter, 26, grew up around residential construction and, in a sense, is earning his stripes through SLCC as he moves up in the family business, Bangerter Homes, where he currently works full time. “I really like homebuilding,” he says. “I’d like to stay in that.”

The students who worked on the Beagley Circle house haven’t ruled out more school, possibly a four-year degree. They’ll miss epic lunches with their new buddy, Boyd, now that the home is finished. And they’ll continue telling friends, family, anyone who will listen, about SLCC’s program. “With a program like this, with hands-on experience, you can actually make money from this knowledge,” Moser says. “There a lot of opportunities in this Construction Management program to help kids get the degree and make money.”

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