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TCC students save district money, gain employability
Posted on 11/26/2012

For years students at the Poplar Bluff Technical Career Center have gained experience applicable in the job market working on projects right here in the school district.

The educational facilities have benefitted from the handy work, while tax dollars have been saved by eliminating the need to outsource the work, according to Poplar Bluff school officials.

“It serves twofold,” explained Alan Ursery, director of buildings and grounds for Poplar Bluff Schools. “In vocational classes you learn more through hands on. It’s why [the students] are not in college—they’re getting that on-the-job training that you don’t find in the classroom.”

An awning constructed by the Welding and Fabrication class and painted by the Automotive Collision Repair section was just put up by the school’s Maintenance Department at Eugene Field Elementary School. Over the summer, another awning was erected at the Early Childhood Center. Also in recent years, students built the awning system over the pavilions and picnic tables at the Career Center.

“They’re better than the ones you can buy at the store,” stated welding instructor Ron Pratt, who has been teaching at the Career Center for 22 years. Pratt’s students have even manufactured the stations in his state-of-the-art classroom workshop.

Program officials over the Building Trades unit are currently planning a major project out at Oak Grove Elementary School, to construct a new classroom building there. Two modular classrooms “past their life expectancy,” as Assistant Superintendent of Business/Finance Rod Priest said, were recently removed from the school site to make space for a modern commercial facility. “It’s a win-win situation,” Priest commented.

Every two years, the Building Trades class constructs a house in the community from the ground up. The buildings are then put on the market, and the proceeds from the bids go back into the program.

“I’ve had former students go into every trade—wiring, plumbing, dry walling and roofing,” recalled Career Center carpentry teacher Mike Tubb, who plans to retire in May after 24 years. “They’ve become painters and masons. They’ve gone on to work for Robertson Bridge & Grading, the Butler County [Highway] Department and Wal-Mart chains all over the U.S.”

As evidence of students’ employability after receiving training through the Career Center, the school district itself has hired some of its graduates due in part to the real world experience they have gained.

Ron Sciacca, a technician at the school’s Media Center, revisited his education after his former employer Rowe Furniture closed its Poplar Bluff plant in 2006. Sciacca interned at the Media Center upon completing the Career Center’s Computer Maintenance Technology program, and was hired to join the staff shortly thereafter.

In addition to the Media Center, Career Center interns from the Health Occupations program help the district perform health screenings. The Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration unit assists the Maintenance Department in servicing campus equipment such as the walk-in coolers and ice machines at the Mules Café. The Computer Graphics and Printing Technology class performs various print jobs which include designing envelopes and forms for the district. The Culinary Arts Department caters during internal events.

Career Center students also gain workforce experience through community service such as the Cosmetology unit volunteering to cut hair during the annual Back to School Fair at the Black River Coliseum, or providing makeovers for patients undergoing cancer treatment through the local ‘Look Good… Feel Better’ program sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

“As educators, we always hear, ‘I’ll never use this in real life,’” explained Jean Winston, Career Center Director. “At the Career Center, we’re able to say, ‘Remember in math when you learned angles? Now you have to use that knowledge to determine the slope of the roof.’

“That’s the rewarding part about our work here—getting to see the end result of all the hard work other teachers put in—from teaching students to tie their shoe to building a house—they ultimately learn how to become productive citizens,” Winston concluded.


Cutline: Tyler Albright, a Twin Rivers senior enrolled in the TCC Welding and Fabrication program, practices to receive his certification through the American Welding Society.

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