Working wonders in wood: South County Career Center students learn hands-on skills in building construction

Published on: May 6, 2015

By LISA STARK

Christine McMillan practices safety principles as she operates the mechanical saw. Lisa Stark photos.

Christine McMillan practices safety principles as she operates the mechanical saw. Lisa Stark photos.

Students at the South County Career Center, or SCCC, in Ruskin have spent a semester crafting “wood wonders” in their Building Construction course, filling the woodworking studio with an impressive array of lamps, cabinets, jewelry boxes, lacquered Adirondack and rocking chairs, and even large structural house models, built-to-scale.

“I try to make it fun for my students while giving them practical skills,” said teacher Ken Dutton. “My students feel a sense of accomplishment when they build projects they can take home and give to their families. It boosts their self-esteem and helps them improve family relations, those intangible benefits that are hard to measure.”

Dutton has worked in construction for 13 years and as an industrial arts educator for 27 years, teaching at East Bay, Armwood and Okeechobee high schools, and also Ben Hill Middle School before joining the staff at SCCC five years ago.

The class covers structural design, electrical wiring and the use of the “tools of the trade.” Students gain powerful skills in measuring, designing, and using tools that will enable them to enter labor and field supervisor positions directly out of high school.

“I plan to work in carpentry after I graduate,” said Hector Espinoza. “My cousin makes a good living working as a carpenter in his own business, and I hope to follow in his footsteps.”

Blake Swackhammer personalized his wood project with pen-and-ink designs.

Blake Swackhammer personalized his wood project with pen-and-ink designs.

Marvin McClendon also wants to enter the construction business after graduating. “I like working with my hands, using measurements and building the house models,” he said.

McClendon was inspired by a recent visit to their classroom by a representative from KB Homes.“When I look at new home construction, I think about what I’ve learned in this class,” McClendon said.

SCCC is a career-oriented facility for “at-risk” high-school-age students living in southern Hillsborough County. Through a combination of academic remediation and technical training, students can earn their Florida high-school performance-based diploma while acquiring the skills to enter the workforce.

Some of the programs offered at SCCC include Army ROTC, automotive service, medical administration, culinary arts and EMT Responder.

According to Dutton, the house framing that students execute in his course is done exactly as it would be done in an actual house.

“My students learn skills that are used in the professional world, like how to read blueprints, draw floor plans and work with building specifications,” said Dutton. “We also spend significant time learning about the safety guidelines established by OSHA,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

teacher“I have some very artistic kids in this class,” Dutton said proudly.

In addition to construction design, his students also enjoy working on original pen-and-ink embellishments that can be incorporated into their projects, some of which will be converted into distinctive wood-burning designs.

For more information on the programs offered at the South County Career Center, visit their website at www. sccc.mysdhc.org.

 

 

Everado Hernandez and Jeremiah Melendez display some of the projects that have been produced this semester in Mr. Dutton’s class.

Everado Hernandez and Jeremiah Melendez display some of the projects that have been produced this semester in Mr. Dutton’s class.

 

The class poses in front of a structural model they have built to scale. Back row, from left: Teacher Ken Dutton, Everado Hernandez, Vanessa Vega, Hector Espinoza, Christine McMillan, Jeremiah Melendez and Marvin McClendon.  Front row: Pablo Rodriquez and Jovany Saldana.

The class poses in front of a structural model they have built to scale. Back row, from left: Teacher Ken Dutton, Everado Hernandez, Vanessa Vega, Hector Espinoza, Christine McMillan, Jeremiah Melendez and Marvin McClendon. Front row: Pablo Rodriquez and Jovany Saldana.

Pablo Rodriquez shows off his pen-and-ink design.

Pablo Rodriquez shows off his pen-and-ink design.

 

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