ST. LOUIS – Hands-on construction techniques, including carpentry, cabinetry and flooring installation, are taught in a real-world setting at Ranken Technical College. Students studying the fields of construction, plumbing, HVAC and electrical skills, spend their time in the St. Louis community building homes to gain hands-on training.

“Since 1993 we’ve had students actively building homes in blighted areas,” says John Wood, VP at Ranken Technical College. "Students gain technical skills and experience," he says, while the program creates affordable housing.

Carpentry students at Rankin Tech do Tiny Houses

In the past, first year carpentry students have built modular style homes inside the woodshop in order to prepare for their second year task of building a real home out in the community through the Ranken Community Development Corporation. Carpentry instructors teach first year students to build "Tumbleweed Homes" which include all the typical features of a home compressed into a footprint of only about 100 square feet. The Carpentry department will keep one for display and the others will be sold.

"Our students used to build the modular homes, then have to tear them down and most of the materials just had to be thrown in the dumpster," said Jeff Bosick, Carpentry instructor. "With the new Tumbleweed Homes, our students will still learn what they need to learn, but now the finished products will actually be used in a really great way."  


Within Ranken’s construction program at the college students receive instruction from faculty members and in-field residential building construction experience. Carpentry students are engaged in overall construction, and in interior work including dry wall, installation of cabinets, trim and flooring.

More than 50 project homes have been coordinated by the non-profit organization Ranken Community Development Corporation (RCDC), started by the college 20 years ago.

Last year, RCDC partnered with the KWAME Building Group for a home project near campus. KWAME, which provides construction services, furnished the property, construction management, materials and subcontractors.

Prior to establishing the RCDC, Ranken students worked on projects with Habitat for Humanity. The RCD helps coordinate more effectively with student curriculum requirements at Ranken College.  d renovation of single-family homes.

RCDC has built more than 50 homes to date. For each house, students and faculty members from various college departments - Architectural Technology, Carpentry and Building Construction Technology, Plumbing Technology, and Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology - use their skills to build houses in the neighborhood surrounding the College.

Once the completed houses are sold, proceeds are used to build more homes and involve future students in home building projects.

“This program is great because it exposes students to a wide variety of construction techniques they will need to know as they launch their careers in the housing industry,” says Wood.

Supplies companies support some projects. Last summer,  82 of Ranken's construction students worked on two side-by-side house foundations, pouring concrete on one foundation, and using Precast Concrete Solutions precast insulated foundation panels installed at the work site.

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