Fairmont High School: Construction trades growing

Students are busy at work in the advanced woods class at Fairmont High School cutting notches for octagonal picnic tables that will be used in the horseshoe area at Fairmont High School. From left: Tyler Davis, Gibson Berg and Melvin Navas, all sophomores.

Fairmont High School is working on growing its construction trades academy. This years woods classes are taught by Brad Johnson.

Johnson, who has worked for the district for many years as a science teacher, is still teaching one section of biology as well as eighth grade STEM. This is his first year teaching the woods classes, but he’s not new to the craft as he’s been doing his own construction projects for years and has a great interest in it.

“My goal is to be a full-time woods teacher,” Johnson said, explaining that he hopes to get the number of students in the classes up so he can transition into teaching solely construction trades classes.

“I’m hoping to bring it back and get the kids excited about it. Maybe it will be a potential career for them,” Johnson said.

Like any other skilled trade, the need for those in construction is greatly increasing as many workers are nearing retiring age.

“The job market’s going to be big. We just don’t have enough kids going into it. We need to try to create that spark of interest and show them what they can do,” Johnson said.

Right now there are two different construction trades classes, woods one is taken by mostly freshmen and had 24 students in it this year, and advanced woods is grades 10-12 with a total of 10 students in it. This year, students in those classes have built sawhorses, birdhouses, toolbox totes and finished chests.

The advanced woods class is working on a special project right now as the students in the class are building two octagonal picnic tables that will go in the horseshoe area at the high school. Just last week, the materials came in that are needed for the tables and the class is expected to finish them in the coming weeks.

As this is Johnson’s first year teaching construction trades, he said they haven’t gotten much into the finishing work yet but they’ll get there.

“This is a learning experience for me as well as for the students,” Johnson said.

Johnson is the school’s fourth woods teacher in four years. Before him was Rick Hotzler for one year and before that Terry Carlson taught for a year and prior to that, Keith Anderson was the long-time woods teacher.

“It’s hard to get the number up when the kids don’t know who will be here,” Johnson said.

If the construction trades academy kicks off next year, Johnson hopes to partner with the welding program so that they can build the frames for fish houses and the construction trades class can build the tops. Johnson said the goal is to work together to build the fish houses, sell them and then reinvest the money in the program.

Superintendent Joe Brown echoed Johnson’s desire to have him as a full-time woods teacher next year.

“Brad is the right person for this. He has a real interest in this and he has a lot of experience. He’s a natural teacher and the kids respect him,” said Brown.

“We have the welding academy and the agriculture academy and I’ve been telling people we’re going to have a construction trades academy,” Brown said, adding that it’s a goal of his and the school board’s to grow the program.

Brown reported that a good number of students have signed up to take construction trades classes next school year.

“We’re very interested in maybe building a tiny house down the line,” Brown said.

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