WWCC carpentry program shelved

Low enrollment and market forces will put the program on hold for a year, officials say.

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla Community College will suspend its carpentry program next year due to low enrollment and instability in the construction market.

Each year, WWCC carpentry students learn the fundamentals of new home construction by building a house and then selling it. Past projects have often secured a sale while still in the construction phase. This year, the student-built house, which is near completion, has yet to be bought.

The WWCC board of trustees heard those details Wednesday during its monthly meeting at the college. The information was provided by Mindy Nelson, vice president of instruction-workforce education.

Nelson said the downturn in the housing market, particularly for new construction, has had a noticeable effect on the construction training program.

"This is not the right time to be training construction workers," Nelson said during the meeting while explaining the decision to suspend the program.

The one-year suspension is expected to have minimal effect on the seven students currently enrolled. In a letter to carpentry advisory committee members, Nelson outlined details of the move on the current students and one instructor.

Five of the seven students in the program will earn degrees or certificates this spring, while one student will earn it through an additional quarter in a work experience plan, the letter noted. The final student is two quarters shy of finishing and is meeting with an advisor to map out an education plan.

Students are still working on construction of the home, which is expected to be finished by mid-June. Carpentry instructor Greg Moeller is working with the students on the project until his resignation takes effect at the end of the school year.

Cutting the program for one year is expected to save the college $80,500. It was uncertain whether the carpentry program would return after a year's time.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

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