STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A Penn State workforce education student working toward his Vocational Instructional II certificate has shepherded a group of State College Area High School students to first place in a national competition.
Chris Warren has taught building construction in State College’s Career and Technology Center since 2009. His students won first place for Outstanding Student Chapter of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas earlier this year.
"Even though we have made every effort to deliver the best program possible for our students and knew we were having a great impact on kids, we never imagined that our program at State High would have been considered one of the best in the entire nation," Warren said.
“While at the IBS Awards Ceremony we were thrilled to be placed alongside great school chapters like the University of Nebraska and University of North Texas. For all of us, coming in first against both high schools and also colleges was unbelievable. It took several days for it to sink in.”
The NAHB has developed professional standards that programs need to exemplify and follow in order to get its endorsement. The organization expects strict curriculum competencies to be met, career application to tasks, certifications and real-world learning applications for both programs and student chapters.
“The key to our program is that we place the needs of the building industry and what is expected from future employees first, then fill in the blanks with the curricular requirements,” Warren said.
“The clear success of a program comes from true integration and working relationships with building industry professionals and organizations like our local Pennsylvania Builders Association and local builders, businesses and contractors. We listen to what the industry is asking for when it comes to developing prepared employees and implement those needs into the classroom and student chapter.”
Warren said State College’s Building Construction Technology Program is divided into four years and constructed on the principles of building a home. What the students learn each year includes:
Year 1: Understanding job site and tool safety, surveying, site layout, excavation, and masonry and framing principles.
Year 2: Roofing, siding, installing doors and windows, complete electrical service installation for a residential home.
Year 3: Plumbing; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; interior finishes like trim, tile, sheetrock and cabinet installation.
Year 4: Sustainability, energy, alternative energy applications and individual studies.
“The most important parts of the integration of all four years are the essentials to every student’s success: professional writing, speaking, soft skills and essential business application skills of how to run a business or job site,” Warren said. “We involve the students in business plan writing, presentations and collaborative projects. This is where the NAHB student chapter introduces students to true success of learning where they take the knowledge they learn in the classroom and apply it to real-world applications.”
Warren said he has been self-employed since 1984. He started his first company while he was an undergrad at Gettysburg College working on a bachelor of arts degree in business management. Since then he built four companies in five states. In addition to his teaching duties, he currently manages two building and development companies.
“I have always enjoyed being an entrepreneur and loved engaging people into the different aspects of business, so transforming the building program was a great challenge that I easily embraced,” Warren said.
He said returning to education as a student after so many years in the workforce was a huge positive
“There is a tremendous advantage having been out in the professional environment for the past 25 years to come back and take classes. There is definitely a different perspective you have having lived real world experiences and actually applying true effective techniques of learning embraced in our industry,” Warren said.
“Learning, studying and absorbing content is much easier and obviously more appreciated than when you were in the long years of secondary and post secondary education.”