May 20, 2018
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Local Job Corps program prepares students for a better future

By Jamison Cocklin, Special to the BDN

BANGOR, Maine — They learn reading skills and mathematics, they can frame walls and lay flooring, but of all the fundamentals that students in the Penobscot Job Corps’ Home Builders Institute program learn, it’s the lasting memories, teamwork and leadership skills they gain that prepare them for the future.

Fourteen students are enrolled in the program, which teaches them carpentry skills and basic academics. What’s more, says instructor Mark Martin, the Home Builders Institute provides the flexibility students truly need to one day become professional tradespeople in a profitable American industry.

“The majority of this program is hands-on and competency-based,” said Martin. “Students aren’t graded so much as they are asked to perform tasks until they can demonstrate that they meet industry standards.”

Job Corps is the nation’s oldest and largest residential education and job training program for at-risk youth. Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor and Job Corps, the Home Builders Institute was created in 1974. It provides job training for a number of construction trades, including plumbing, carpentry and masonry.

Bangor’s Home Builders Institute program was started in 1980 and teaches only the carpentry trade.

According to Martin, students are given as much time as they need to complete the program. The curriculum is broad and includes training stations for the students to familiarize themselves with at each stage of building a home. Enrollees also are asked to perform capital improvement projects on campus, such as making repairs to restrooms or building picnic tables. They also provide community service and attend academic classes.

“We’re giving these kids a chance to succeed,” said Martin. “Getting your certification and completing the program depends on a student’s needs. There are a lot of variables involved with the students who come through this program.”

No matter how long students take, success is a hallmark of Bangor’s Home Builders Institute. Katie Halloran, a spokeswoman for the program, said the center has a nearly 100 percent job placement rate.

The program’s primary aim is to move students to either a job, a higher level of education or the military. Martin, who has taught at the center for more than 16 years, said the best part of his job is seeing his students succeed. He called it “the driving force” behind his work as an instructor.

Martin’s dedication was evident last week when he gathered with two of his students at the center so that they could share their stories and the positive impact the center has had on their lives.

Dale Rose, 23, a 2010 graduate of the program, attributes much of his recent success to the skills he learned at the center.

“This program is all about how to do something, not why you do something,” said Rose. “It’s very hands-on, and you get the time you need to learn. It was less stressful [than college] and I’ve had an advantage because of it.”

The skills Rose has learned in the program enabled him to continue his education. He will graduate from Eastern Maine Community College in May with an associate degree in building construction and applied sciences. Even more impressive, after making the dean’s list and joining the National Honor Society, Rose already has been hired by the Ernest Clark Co., a general contractor located in Brewer.

Another of Martin’s students, Kris Nichols, 20, saw the Home Builders Institute as a way toward a lifelong goal.

Nichols, who recently earned his carpentry certification at the center, said the teamwork and leadership skills he learned from the program have made him an ideal candidate for the military. He said recruiters were impressed with his training at the center and as a result he soon will leave for basic training in the Army, where he aspires to be an Airborne Ranger.

“You have to swallow your pride sometimes when you’re learning these kinds of construction skills,” he said. “Working as a team and not doing things by yourself has really prepared me well for the military.”

Rose and Nichols agreed they have made lasting memories at the center, and they will continue to stay in touch with Martin.

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