Like many high school students, South Bend Washington High School senior Ethan Forrest spent his senior year in English, history, and math classes, studying for AP exams and participating in athletics—for Forrest, that meant football, wrestling and golf.
He also did something few high school students can say they have done: he helped build a house.
The three-bedroom house, complete with custom woodwork and tile, was a year-long project started by Washington High School’s building trades class in 2018 and completed in the spring of 2019.
“It was really fun and a lot of hard work,” Forrest said. “You can look up at the house and say, ‘I built that.’”
The experience confirmed what Forrest was considering all through high school, to skip a traditional four-year college plan in favor of becoming an apprentice in the construction trades through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
Becoming an electrician was one of the career options that stood out most to Forrest when he first began building trades classes.
“Working with electricity is very technical,” Forrest said. “I work with my hands, but it is mentally challenging.”
During his apprenticeship, Forrest will earn a starting salary while learning the trade, as well as an associate degree in applied science (A.B. degree) from Ivy Tech Community College. He plans to continue his education in order to someday feel prepared to own his own business.
“Being my own boss has always been one of my goals,” Forrest said. “I hope to own a small construction or electrical business someday, so it never hurts to gain extra knowledge. The more education you have, the more you can earn.”
One thing he won’t have is tuition payments or debt, he added. “A lot of people put themselves in a big hole to go to college, but this is all paid for.”