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Sierra College students, Placer County contractors partner to build Auburn house

Lilac Lane home in Auburn now for sale after cooperative effort to teach trades onsite
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Two years ago, Sierra College’s construction courses were teetering on the verge of extinction. Now students, instructors and the group’s version of a Silicon Valley “angel” – the Placer County Contractors Association – are celebrating. The partnership was forged from the fires of a heated public meeting in February 2010 after the Rocklin college announced construction courses were on the chopping block to help stave off a $10.7 million budget shortfall. The 500-member contractors association stepped up to provide support to keep the construction program going. It secured a 0.31-acre vacant lot in an established North Auburn neighborhood to build on, provided materials and added the expertise of many veteran trades people. Patrick Remington, president of the Placer County contractors group, said the building-industry organization stepped in to encourage a new generation of skilled workers. “The average age for people in the construction industry is in the low 50s,” Remington said. “With high schools cutting back on these kinds of courses, who would we have in the future?” Craig Chamberlain, Sierra College construction technology instructor, said that work on and off site at the 2,024-square-foot Lilac Lane home provided hands-on experience for 150 students in eight classes. “They provided the labor for all aspects of courses we teach, including foundation work, framing, and cabinetry,” Chamberlain said. “The Contractors Association provided the materials and the sub-contractors. Students have really appreciated having a place to learn.” Plans are to continue the partnership once the new home is sold and profits are split, Chamberlain said. Money will be put back into construction classes and the association’s non-profit foundation. The two are also planning to build together again, Chamberlain said. The home is being marketed by Lyon Real Estate’s Don Shearing. A mentor at Oakmont High School, which has a construction class that recently helped with a Roseville Habitat for Humanity project, Shearing said that the Auburn project should reap long-lasting benefits by helping to train new trades people. “These are jobs that can’t be shipped overseas,” Shearing said. “You can’t outsource construction jobs.” With 2½ bathrooms, three bedrooms a two-car garage and an expansive great room for dining and entertaining, the Lilac Lane home is on the market for $299,000. The Contractors Association will be playing host at 10 a.m. Jan. 17 in the Lilac Lane home to an open house showcasing the project. The event is free and open to the public. Chae Gale, Contractors Association director of operations, said that stormy February meeting at Sierra College spurred the group to action to save a valuable asset in the community. “They were looking to cancel the construction trades program and we strongly felt it would be a disservice to our community – they provide the knowledge-based tools for getting into the industry,” Gale said. “The college embraced the idea and did a great job.”