Building Futures in Airdrie with McKee Homes

Story by Jim Zang

Fall 2023

McKee Homes builds more than just homes – they build futures. And the futures they build aren’t just for the folks who buy a McKee home for their family; they’re helping literally dozens of local high school students on their life’s journey every year through the Building Futures program.

This unique out-of-school learning program teaches students about the home building industry, working with various industry experts and trades to help build a home literally from the ground up.

“Students are involved in everything from surveying the empty lot to the final marketing,” says Ryan Doel, sales and marketing manager for McKee Homes. “The kids picked all the interior design selections for these homes.” Participating students also each complete a personal project, putting together plans and getting approvals before starting, just like on any construction project. These are on display are on display in the homes, ranging from an equine tack storage box, to wall shelving, desks, tables, a catio and more – each with a short write-up attached explaining the project.

McKee Homes team members are is passionate not just about building homes, but about bettering the community in which they live, work and raise their own families. This is the leading home builder’s 10th year partnering with Rocky View School Division (RVSD) to support the program, which has seen 330 students frame, hang and then pass through its doors.

The students, from George McDougall, W. H. Croxford and Bert Church high schools, are on-site all day, every day, working in shifts of four at a time, learning from experienced tradespeople, and participate in all aspects of construction, except for work over the height of 10 feet.

The journey begins in Grade 9, where the students apply for the Building Futures program, which basically immerses them in the industry for their entire Grade 10 year, says Sheri McAllister, construction superintendent for McKee Homes and project manager for Building Futures.

“My role is to set up the learning space, facilitate the build and create learning opportunities for the students and teachers throughout the year. I schedule the homes, promote safety, direct trades, arrange guest speakers and manage the exhibition of learning at the end of the year to showcase the students’ homes and projects. The students also job shadow me to see other McKee job sites.”

Each student submits a written application and has an interview with RVSD and the Building Futures teachers prior to being accepted. There are no extra fees, and McKee Homes provides all personal protective equipment and safety training. All that students are required to do is buy their own pair of steel-toed boots. The process begins in March, with program information available at rvsclc.rockyview.ab.ca/programs/building-futures. September 2023 will see 27 new students participate in the program.

“Students get a sampling of each trade as the construction progresses, experience the whole build and get to know the people, their professions, the culture and amass credits for their high school diploma in their Grade 10 year,” say Sean Root, Humanities teacher with Rocky View Schools and Building Futures. “When the students aren’t on the job site, they’re in the classroom pursuing their academics and are held to the same rigor as their peers in a conventional environment. Participating in the Building Futures program exposes students not just to the trades that McKee Homes employs on their builds but also to some of the disciplines offered at SAIT through Building Futures’ relationship with that institution and now McKee’s scholarship programs.”

Tour the homes at 480 Reynolds Ave. in Airdrie, and if you’d like to see more photos of the project visit instagram.com/buildingfutures.