Remember the cubbies our Simonds Building and Trade Program students were finishing a few weeks ago? Now they’re out of the workshop and at their new home, the Jackson School in St Albans. We dropped in on delivery day to see the finished product.

It was all-hands-on-deck as the cubbies were loaded off the truck at the Jackson School, which provides an innovative learning environment for children with mild intellectual disabilities.


The students have worked on the cubbies project across the year, as part of the Simonds Building and Trade Program curriculum. Builders Academy trainer Peter Palmer oversees these community based-builds from whoa to go. “In other projects, we’ve completed decks at Melbourne City Mission in Fitzroy, and last Friday we also did some work in Dandenong with our first-year students,” he says. “They’re about creating useable, friendly spaces.”


Program 2 student Chris says he’s enjoyed the build: “It’s a good feeling to give back to the community and help them out. It puts a smile on my face when I think about helping out young kids with cool stuff for their school.”


Throughout the process, the students have learnt how to put in noggins and studs, build roofs and put on weatherboard. “I love everything about it,” Chris says. “It’s hands-on and you learn heaps of stuff.”


Trainer Peter explains: “Normally, when you’re doing a certificate II you knock down what you’ve built, or just do a part of something. So to build something and finish it is rewarding for the students.”


Joan O’Connor-Cox is the principal of the Jackson School. She told us about the real impact the project will have for her students: “We have a lot of children with autism. It’s great for them to go out and have a quiet space to calm down in. If we can keep our children’s level of anxiety down, then they can learn.”


The cubbies were delivered in fresh timber, but Joan says the students will now personalise them. “We will get the students involved in painting the cubbies. We think they’ll each belong to a children’s book, so one could belong to Goldilocks and the other Hansel and Gretel.”


“It’s a nice thing to do,” says Dave. “These kids are pretty lucky to get these cubbies. It gives them some new equipment to play on and quiet spaces to chill-out in. It’s nice to show that you care.”


The build has given the students a grounding in how a house comes together. Daniel says, “In the process we have learned a lot of different things like how roofs are built, putting weatherboards on, and that kind of thing.”


As well as hands-on skills, it’s taught the students about teamwork, regulations and OH&S — all important when they move on to their apprenticeships.


Joan told us how important it is for students at the Jackson School with high levels of anxiety or disabilities to have a range of spaces to use. It’s been satisfying for the program 2 students to help on a practical level. Daniel says, “It’s a good experience. It makes you happy that the school is getting something positive out of it.”


Congrats on all your hard work, guys!

The Simonds Building and Trade Program is a joint initiative between SEDA, Builders Academy Australia and Simonds Group, specifically designed to engage year 11 and 12 students in their education while creating pathways to apprenticeships in building and construction.