Community Hero of the Month: McCann Carpentry Program
The Community Hero of the Month series runs for the next 12 months in partnership with Haddad Auto. Nominated community members and organizations have gone above and beyond to make a positive impact on their community.
Principal Justin Kratz said the school is proud of the instructors who work very hard to have the program benefit the community while teaching the students carpentry skills at the same time.
"It's something that we've done here for a long time. So it's nice to have the students and instructors be recognized for all the work they've done out there," Kratz said.
Students expressed pride in see how their work has been of value.
"I think it makes us proud because it helps the community and I think that's a very good thing and more people should strive to help others," sophomore Andrew Meaney said.
Communities have expressed their thankfulness for the work the students have done but it is also a rewarding experience for the students as well, several members of the faculty said.
"A lot of our students end up working in Berkshire County, raising their families here, pursuing trades here so to be able to go back and see the work that they did in high school are still standing in the communities around is really important," Kratz said.
Juniors Alexander McDermott and Trace Hopkins said the program gives them realistic experience in the trade.
"I'd say [the community projects] has brought us a more in-depth view of what we really do in this shop for our community," Hopkins said.
"I feel like the outside projects are better because it's more realistic on what you actually do outside of the shop. It's a little different in the real world," McDermott said.
The community projects allow the students to utilize their skills and the projects to help the community, they said.
McCann's program programs help communities with projects that are cost intensive, Kratz said, especially for the smaller rural towns.
Previous projects include sheds for various towns, the new roof and remodeling of the Clarksburg town pavilion, improvements to municipal buildings in Clarksburg and Florida, the accessibility ramp at Lanesborough Town Hall, cemetery signage at various cemeteries in the Berkshires, and many more.
Recently students built a shed for the swap shop at the town of Florida's transfer station.
"[McCann Technical School's carpentry program] have built sheds for many of our towns. Our organization Northern Berkshire Solid Waste has 14 member towns [and provides] waste management and recycling services," nominator and Northern Berkshire Solid Waste Coordinator Linda Cernik said.
"[Florida's transfer station shed] helps divert household items from the waste stream to a reuse, upcycle program."
The students are currently working on a shed for the Dalton transfer station's universal waste recycling program.
This expansion of the program will allow residents to recycle rechargeable batteries, computer monitors, mercury containing light bulbs, said Cernik and Highway Superintendent Edward "Bud" Hall.
Dalton received a $5,000 grant from the state Recycling Dividends Program to cover the cost of the shed, Hall said. Without the help from the students, the cost of the project would have doubled.
"It's something we wouldn't have been able to do without McCann's help. We won a grant for $5,000 but it only pretty much covered the materials," he said.
"So, it's a great deed that the McCann carpentry program has done for us in building the shed for us and, hopefully, we'll see it soon, thanks to them."
The community projects and the schools co-op program also benefit the community by providing skilled workers.
"[The community projects] helps grow the community of carpenters and it helps us to help other people," Meaney said.
Over the last few years, carpentry program instructors Justin Howland and Pat Ryan have transformed it from just a woodshop with cabinetry to a residential construction shop.
Before the shift, job placement was minimal to zero so they decided to turn the program into residential house construction because that is the field that is "hurting for people," Ryan said.
In addition to that, residential construction is more difficult than commercial construction, Howland said.
"I come from commercial construction. I've obviously done residential, the first part of my career, but I switched over to commercial construction and it's very similar to residential, it's actually easier to do commercial construction than residential," Howland said.
"So, if we teach the students residential and they end up going into a commercial-type setting when they graduate, it's a very easy transition to go to a commercial setting. So, we like to teach them the harder part that's with wood not with metal."
This transformation has improved the curriculum because students are getting real-world experience, a better understanding of residential building, and preparation for the demanding construction trade, Howland said.
Although the shop size is the best they can have to accommodate 36 students, there is still not enough room for students to complete full-scale projects, Ryan said.
Howland agreed, adding that the students are learning the concepts of the trade in the shop and utilizing these concepts in the community on larger construction projects.
An there are not a lot of contractors out there anymore, which increases costs, Howland said.
"If we supply more students that are able to do this trade in the future, then it'll help keep costs down for homeowners," he said.
They hope that some of the students choose to stay local so they can keep the community camaraderie alive and help fill positions that have been left vacant due to the older generation retiring, Ryan said.
The school has co-operative programs for all its trades that allows seniors and fourth-quarter juniors the opportunity to work in their trade for local businesses during their shop week.
The school has a list of employers that wait every year for students to be eligible to participate in the co-op, Howland said.
Graduates can choose to go to college rather than into the workforce, but if they do decide to enter the trade, they have an entry-level position "ready and waiting for them," Howland said.
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