FARMINGTON — The construction crew gathered around a supervisor at the job site for a morning safety meeting and a review of the day’s work. Although the sun shone brightly against a cloudless blue sky, the December air was frigid. It was clear the carpenters were anxious to get moving – not only to tackle the work at hand but to help alleviate the chill.

Ronan Dias at left, Oaklun Homenick, George Chimenti, and Nate Hartley prepare to lift a truss to Tyler Chicoine and Trevor Haynes. Chimenti is the building construction teacher at Foster Career and Technical Education Center in Farmington. The students are part of a 7-student work crew. (Franklin Journal photo by Dee Menear)

As the workers put on their tool belts and work gloves, there was a quick check to make sure everyone had on hard hats and safety glasses.

The goal for the day was to set trusses on a garage construction project. The supervisor gave instructions. Trevor Haynes would work from the peak, putting spacers between each truss after it was set. Tyler Chicoine and James Gerrish were assigned atop the outer edges of what was becoming the roof. They would make sure each truss was flush before nailing it in place. Ronan Diaz, Oaklun Homenick and Nate Harley would carry and lift the trusses to their co-workers, being careful not to let the wood flex.

As ordinary as it seemed, this was not a typical construction site. It was, however, an average morning for students in the building construction program at Foster Career and Technical Education Center in Farmington.

The program is taught by George Chimenti. He has a total of 40 years of experience in construction. Twenty-four years ago he decided to pursue teaching but continued building in the summers. When the position at Foster CTE became available 11 years ago, he jumped at the opportunity.

“The program teaches kids how to build a structure using the five main points of construction,” he said. “It needs to be straight, plumb, level, square, and the measurements have to be right.”

“The goal is to get these kids jobs in the trades,” Chimenti said. “The construction trade needs kids bad and these are decent paying jobs.”

There are 14 students in the program, split between two crews. The crews meet on alternating mornings for four hours. In the afternoons, and on days they are not in the CTE program, students take academic classes in their high schools. Some students qualify for internships. Haynes, a Spruce Mountain High School senior, is one of those students.

Oaklun Homenick at front and Ronan Dias help carry a truss on a worksite in Weld. They are part of the building construction program at Foster Career and Technical Center. They are also students at Mt. Blue High School. (Franklin Journal photo by Dee Menear)

“Trevor is one of my top students,” Chimenti said. “He is in his second year of the building program. He is here on alternate mornings and takes an English class in the afternoon. Every other day he works an 8-hour day with ELB Construction and earns good money.”

James Gerrish works on a construction project in Weld. Gerrish is a Mt. Blue High School student and is in the Building Construction program at Foster Career and Technical Education Center in Farmington. (Franklin Journal photo by Dee Menear)

Getting into the internship requires a contract, Chimenti said. “It’s not an easy task to do. They have to have all their academic requirements set up by their junior year.”

“It is 100 percent not easy to do,” Haynes said. “Classroom work isn’t really my thing. I’d rather work with my hands.”

The first year of the program focused on safety and how to do things properly, he said.

“This year, I help first-years do things safely,” Haynes added. “Second-years learn more skills like building stairs and rafters, and we are able to use more tools. It makes it more like a real job site.”

Haynes is undecided about plans after graduation. He said he would either go to college to learn more about construction or continue on the path he is already on and join the work-force.

“Programs like this benefit kids like me because not everyone is meant for a desk job,” he added.

The building construction program is one of more than a dozen programs offered at Foster CTE. The center primarily serves juniors and seniors from Mt. Blue High School, Spruce Mountain High School, Mt. Abram High School and Rangeley Lakes Regional School.

Eighth grade CTE programs have been integrated into Spruce Mountain Middle School and Mt. Blue Middle School. Two years ago, a satellite program was started at Mt. Abram.

For more information, visit www.foster.mainecte.org.

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