Habitat for Humanity and Bates Technical College Partnership Reaches Milestone, Fuels Real-World Experience for Students

TACOMA, Wash. – When Bates Technical College instructor Dave Leenhouts approached Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity eight years ago, he hoped to forge a partnership. Today, that partnership has helped yield 50 affordable homes for families in our area.

“My goal was to be able to educate our electrician students on the newest technology in energy efficient homes and new construction,” said Leenhouts, who teaches the nine-quarter Electrical Construction program. “This fall, we’ll begin work on our 50th house—a major milestone for us.”

Fourth-quarter student Ken Lincoln just completed a TPC Habitat house located on Swan Creek Lane, west of Portland Avenue. The former boat builder from Port Townsend said his Bates education helped him get the skills needed to work on the house.

“In the college’s facility, students go through labs that include mock-ups of residential buildings. I learned to install lights, switch receptacles, wire an apartment, and a 1,000 square-foot home. The opportunity to learn in labs before working on a Habitat for Humanity house is instrumental for our success,” said Lincoln.

The experiences between lab work and construction on a Habitat home are different, noted Lincoln. “At a Habitat site, students interface and work in tandem with professionals in the construction trade,” he said. “The most important part of this hands-on learning experience is that we do finish work on a completed house. Students hook up wires, so it has to be done right, and it’s got to last,” he added.

Director of Site Development and Construction at TPC Habitat Gomer Roseman, said supporting technical education is important. “Bates students not only provide extra work and volunteer power to our organization, their knowledge of the trade, and the instructors’ involvement in the project, allows our site managers to take a hands-off approach,” he said.

Brandon Rogers, dean of instruction at the college’s South Campus is proud of Electrical Construction instructors Jeff Llapitan and Leenhouts for forging this partnership, which offers a unique experiential learning opportunity for their students.

“A hallmark of the Bates experience is that students graduate with both a credential and a work resume’. For our Electrical Construction students, the Habitat partnership means we also invest directly in our community. It’s a model we celebrate,” said Rogers.
Lincoln just started work on the community home at The Woods at Golden Given, located in Parkland. “This experience is a great opportunity for us to work on new construction. We go into an enclosed single-family dwelling and mount the meter and panel. We drill our own holes, pull wire, and when ready, hook up the appliances, receptacles and switches. We get to see the reality of all the home runs coming into the panel. Then, we troubleshoot to ensure everything was done correctly,” he said.

Adds Lincoln, “Working on Habitat homes is something we feel good about. The fact that we have an opportunity to help a family in need move into an affordable new home is incredible.”

To learn more about Bates’ Electrical Construction program, go to www.bates.ctc.edu/Electrical, or call 253.680.7000. To learn more about Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity, go to www.tpc-habitat.org.

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