By Troy Moon
Pensacola State College
If it’s hard for companies to find employees in these trying days, it’s even harder to find good, dependable workers who are knowledgeable and well-trained in their crafts.
It’s no different when it comes to the construction industry.
“I’ve hired a lot of people who have done really shoddy work,’’ said PSC carpentry student Brandi Lowery. “I have contractor after contractor coming in and messing up. I had to fire another contractor last week.”
PSC’s workforce programs have earned a reputation as leaders in construction and workforce technology in the state. A new $15,000 grant from SkillsUSA/Lowe’s will enhance an already strong PSC workforce program.
The recently-awarded grant will help PSC upgrade its construction lab and purchase new materials and equipment.
“When we’re done, we will probably have the best carpentry construction lab in the state,’’ said Tony Grahame, PSC carpentry program coordinator and a Certified Master Builder who has led the program since 2014. “It’s going to allow us to improve training which is what we’re all about.”
Grahame said that while some construction workers might opt for on-the-job training, they’re most likely not receiving the extensive and broad training that will always leads to higher quality work.
“I tell my students I don’t care whether you want to be an artist, musician, doctor or tradesman – whatever it is, just get good at it,’’ Grahame said. “If you get good at it, you get paid well.”
The PSC program offers students an opportunity to earn a Vocational Certificate in Carpentry. It’s a three-term, 1,200 clock-hour program and it leads to a certification from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).
In the first term, students take three courses: Introduction to Craft Skills, Introduction to Carpentry and Building Layout and Foundations. In the second term, students take Carpentry Rough Framing and Carpentry Exterior Finishes. The final term consists of one 300-credit-hour course: Interior Finish and Trim.
Students also gain advanced carpentry certificates including the NCCER Craft Trade Certificate in Carpentry, OSHA10 Safety Credentials, CPR/AED/FA Certificate.
Typically, students begin their first semester in fall and finish their third semester the following summer.
“Many people who get into the program do it because they’re frustrated because they’re hiring people that aren’t doing quality work for them,’’ Grahame said. “They’re not learning the science and the best practices. And it shows.”
That’s why Lowery joined the carpentry program in January. She wants to know what to look for in contractors and their practices. If necessary, she’ll take her skills and do some of the work herself.
“Maybe,’’ she said. “I’ve always been interested in the building side of things.”
Currently, the PSC carpentry program is putting the final touches on a prototype, energy-efficient, 600-square-foot mini-home for the Escambia County Housing Finance Authority. When completed in July, the home will be sold to a qualified, first-time homeowner at an affordable rate.
PSC carpentry students built the home from the ground up, with students from PSC’s other building trade programs such as electrical and HVAC providing services in their fields as well.
“The work on this home is really exceptional,’’ Grahame said. “We’re talking about a 200-year house here.”
The home features solar panels – installed by Grahame’s students – and a 300-square-foot wrap-around covered porch.
“We’re here as much as we can,’’ Grahame said of work at the home. “We have to divide our time between here and the campus where we do bookwork and work on projects in the shop. It really is a comprehensive training program. And employers know that. The need for qualified workers is huge. I get calls every few days where they’re asking if we have people we can provide them with. The market for qualified tradesmen is wide open.”
The Skills USA/Lowe’s grant will allow for numerous purchases to enhance the construction lab, including ducting and duct collection registers, shelving materials, new air compressor hoses, ceiling-mounted electrical extension cord reels, large portable shop vacuum, portable hand and power tools and materials to construct an enclosed outdoor wood-framed storage shed.
For more information on PSC’s carpentry program, go to www.pensacolastate.edu/academic-programs/carp-vc/.