Crafting the Future: Classes prep students for employment

Bill Neve and his Construction Trades class pose in front of their "tiny house" they have been working on this school year. Upon completion, the tiny house will go to Houston to help a family affected by the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

By Savanna Gregg

Burnet Bulletin

Burnet High School has made it a mission to “Craft the future” of its students, to prepare them for college, employment, and the real world. An impactful program recently implemented at BHS to continue this effort is the Ag Mechanics and Construction Trades program. This program prepares students for the real world through woodworking, agriculture, welding, communication, teamwork, and mathematics.

Students in the Construction Trades class are educated in the mathematical aspects of construction by instructor Bill Neve; they are then able to use the methods they have learned in the classroom and apply them to construction techniques. Upon completion of this class, students earn two credits – geometry and agriculture.

“We learn geometry, trigonometry, and algebra and use it to build trusses and walls,” student Ty Holbrook said.

“We are able to do hands-on learning,” Jackson Denton added. “We do normal math and different types that other students don't get to do.”

The students learn with pencil and paper in the classroom setting, then take the knowledge they gain from there to the wood shop, where they put the techniques to work. The class began a project at the start of the school year that has taught them numerous concepts about the construction trade. The group is in the process of building a “tiny house” that is set to go to Houston to a family in need in the aftermath of the flooding brought on by Hurricane Harvey this past August.

This program not only teaches students different mathematical methods and how to build, but the hands-on experience gives them the knowledge and confidence to possibly pursue a career in the construction field for themselves in the future.

“The students get to handle tools they wouldn't usually be able to use, like chop saws,” Neve said. “And there will probably be some summer job opportunities.”

Many students were excited when thinking about finding an opportunity to put their newfound skills to work this coming summer. The program is proving to be successful in preparing students for life after high school. The wood shop and classroom in which Neve and his students work their magic are part of a new addition to the Burnet High School campus, a building funded by the 2014 bond program that was responsible for many renovations and add-ons across BCISD campuses in the years since it was elected. The building provides plenty of space and resources for students participating in the Ag Mechanic and Construction Trades program.

“There is no way we could've pulled this off without this building that we got through the bond,” Neve said.

The students in the program are fortunate to be a part of such an innovative class, as something like this is not very common in 4A schools today.

“We are one of the few 4A schools to offer this program and we want to look at expanding in the future,” Neve said. “We are hoping to eventually do a Pre-AP course, a regular course, and maybe a special education course every few years.”

In the other half of this program, Ag Mechanics, students have the opportunity to use the knowledge they collect in the classroom and techniques they perfect in the shop to take metal and lumber and turn it into a masterpiece. Seniors Ellett Vann – son of one of the well-loved Ag Teachers at BHS, Joe Vann – and Daniel Suarez proudly explained what they are working on this fall.

“I have built a trailer, and right now I'm working on a small BBQ pit,” Suarez said. “We can put BBQ pits in auctions.”

“We are building a whole bedroom suit, and right now I'm making a king size bed with mesquite and black walnut,” Vann said. “We take the things we built to Ag shows to be judged, and people may by the furniture if they like.”

Students in Ag Mechanics do not only have the opportunity to explore techniques and methods to create furniture and metal structures to be judged; they build items to help their community as well.

“We do a lot of charity work,” Vann said. “We've done auctions like the FFA Parent's Giveaway where we sell these projects to raise money for scholarships for next year's seniors. We have sold a conference table for $5,000 and a bed for $3,500. The proceeds went to the Hill Country Community Foundation for scholarships.”

Being in a program like this sometimes means relying on one's peers. The class worked together to create a gooseneck trailer in addition to their other projects. Teamwork is essential in projects like the ones these students are working on, whether it is physical help from a friend or the sharing of knowledge.

“Every day I learn new things like X-Methods,” Suarez said. “I've learned a lot from other students. We help each other with new methods.”

Students aren't the only ones who rely on each other in this class. Sometimes, the instructors learn a few things from the students as well.

“Every day my dad comes home from working in the shop talking about things that he's learned from the kids, like how to do a dovetail jig or use the X-method,” Vann said.

Suarez and Vann are only a few of the many fortunate students that are able to participate in a program as hands-on and meaningful as the Ag Mechanics and Construction Trades. They plan to use their knowledge and skills to take their education further. Suarez will attend Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater to study welding.

“I want to get a career in pipelining and then get into construction management,” Suarez said.

Vann has been accepted to Tarleton State University in Stephenville, to continue working in the agriculture field.

“I want to be an Ag teacher,” Vann said.

Students have the opportunity to achieve a “student-ready” certificate upon completion of the class. It does not certify them, but students are able to take this certificate to potential employers upon graduation to show what they have learned by participating in the program, bettering their chances of obtaining employment.

These two classes in the Burnet High School Ag Mechanics and Construction Trades program play a major role in readying students for the real world. Students are given the knowledge and confidence to take the next step in life towards building a career and a future for themselves.

“In Ag Mechanics, we get to talk to judges and tell them the story about how and why we built what we built,” Vann said. “It gives us good communication skills that we can use in the future.”

Success is built on a strong foundation, relies on the support of others, and requires a great deal of determination and hard work. It takes time and concentration to achieve a goal, and once achieved, that accomplishment will shape one's life and provide a structure that can be added to and improved on every day.

Today's youth is facing the fact that it requires hard work to create a successful future, and the Ag Mechanics and Construction Trades program at Burnet High School has taken this challenge by the horns, determined to assist students in achieving their goals and set them on the right track towards success.

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