Many high school students in the United States get hands-on training in construction skills by building real houses.

One such program was created for construction and design students in Waterloo, Iowa. The students have already received training in many areas of house construction. They have put up walls, built windows and doors and completed some wiring.

The project is run by the Waterloo Career Center. The center offers students different programs designed to prepare them for careers in technical fields.

Students from the Waterloo Community School District recently took part in construction training that centered on the skill of masonry – work done with stone, brick or concrete materials.

The workers taught the students how to mix mortar and build walls with bricks and blocks.

One of the goals for the students was to build a pier – a solid support built to hold vertical pressure. It usually goes out from land and into water.

The students moved the mortar onto pieces of wood and then added bricks and blocks to form walls.

Hunter Pierce was one of the students taking part. He told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier newspaper that using the right amount of material is a very important part of the process. “You put a lot of mortar there so you have a lot of contact, just so in a couple years it doesn’t fall apart,” he said.

Chris Busch helped oversee the students’ efforts. He told the newspaper that learning such skills will help the students be able to build their own solid structures later in their careers.

Busch said that, in this kind of hands-on setting, students can learn exactly how much mortar is needed to create a safe wall. He explained that the right mortar level for the students’ pier project should be about one centimeter.

“It’s fun…it’s something to do,” West High student Nathan Elliott told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. He added that this kind of learning is much better than sitting at a computer. “I like the hands-on stuff,” he said.

Other students also said they liked this method of learning. Some said it got them excited about future careers in construction. These are the kinds of comments Chris Busch likes to hear during his training activities at schools.

“This is basically part of our recruitment,” he said. However, he knows that no matter how good their training experience is, not every student will end up working in masonry.

Busch adds that bringing the program into schools is an important way to find the next generation of workers. “This is great having a whole week in here to present masonry to kids,” he said.

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.


construction (n.) - the act or process of building something


mortar (n.) - mixture of substances used between bricks or stones to keep them together


brick (n.) - small, hard block of baked clay that is used to build structures


beam (n.) - long, thick piece of wood, metal, or concrete that is used to support weight in a building or other structure


recruitment (n.) - the act of trying to convince someone to work for a company or join an organization



Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.


  1. How are students learning about construction?
  2. Where are they doing that?
  3. What did they have to build?
  4. Is this a new method of learning?
  5. Do students like it?
  6. Does it benefit the company?



Exercise 3


Please give your opinion on the following statement and give your reasons behind it.


  • Students learn better when they have "on the spot" training, where they can test their knowledge



Exercise 4 


Have a discussion on following questions.


  1. How your schooling looked like?
  2. Did you want to test your knowledge then?
  3. Is this a good method of learning?
  4. Do you like your job?
  5. Are you a handy man, can you fix things that are broken?
  6. Have you ever built something?


This lesson is based on a news article originally published by learningenglish.voanews.