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A Jigsaw Puzzle

Memphis Works students help Habitat for Humanity.

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When Habitat for Humanity volunteers show up at construction sites for two of the four homes planned to be built this April, they'll find some of the work has already been done. Students from Memphis Works, a UCP job-training and placement service, have spent the last several weeks learning the basics of carpentry by constructing the wall frames for two Habitat homes.

"When we have the wall frames pre-built, putting the frame of the house together is almost like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. All volunteers have to do is set them up and nail them together," says Joanna Curtis, director of development for Habitat for Humanity.

Curtis says having the pre-constructed frames knocks about three days off the usual seven-day construction process. The partnership also saves Habitat money since Memphis Works doesn't charge for their services.

Memphis Works specializes in teaching basic occupational skills to people with disabilities as well as the "underemployed." Students can choose a 12-week program in carpentry, nursing assistance, office technology, or computer support. Classes are generally kept at about three to six students so that each class member gets one-on-one attention. According to Kate Lareau, program director for Memphis Works, two out of the three students in the recent carpentry class already have jobs lined up.

Memphis Works began collaborating with Habitat in January of last year. Class members have helped construct wall frames and done a little on-site construction on 10 to 12 homes, according to Lareau.

"The construction industry is hurting for skilled workers right now, and we're sending workers who have gained hands-on experience out into the work force. Habitat is helping us do that," said Lareau. "With Habitat, our students are getting to participate in something that's really accomplishing something."

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