Bedford County students get construction education, thanks to federal money

Joan S. Reed

ROANOKE, Va. – There’s been a big push for career and technical education over the past few years. Nearly 30 students from across the region are graduating from a basic class, paid for with federal money.

Levi Weddle spent the last sixteen weeks learning at the Build Smart Institute. His next step is a summer apprenticeship at Southern Air.

“I’ll be working 40 hours a week and getting paid to learn,” said Weddle, who is homeschooled in Bedford County and is finishing 11th grade.

His summer work came because of the Core Fundamentals of Construction classes.

Three days a week, 13 students from Bedford County attended for free because of CARES Act money. The cost for the course is usually about $1,800 per student.

“It is very thorough. It’s a light touch on all those things but it’s very thorough,” said Wesley Cotner, the Build Smart Institute lead instructor who begins with safety. “Then we start with the basics. Here’s a skill saw or circular saw, how to cut. We go to here’s a hammer, how to swing it, how to drive a nail.”

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“I think my favorite part of this class was building a wall. That was just incredible. You always look around wherever you are and there’s a wall. You kind of wonder how is this put up? Learning the basics of that was really exciting,” said Weddle.

“We show them how to form sidewalks, how to square sidewalks using some of the geometry they’ve learned in school. You know that question, ‘Where am I ever going to use this?’ We actually show them where they’re going to use it,” said Cotner.

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