Among the many training programs offered at Fred Eberle Technical Center in Buckhannon, carpentry is a classic career that remains in high demand today.
But students at FETC learn much more than just traditional carpentry and come away with several valuable construction skills — ultimately building a full modular home that is auctioned off each year.
Instructor Randy Cunningham said he enjoys working with students and adults at the center as they go hands-on with residential construction.
“Residential construction includes learning to frame up a house, plumbing skills, finishing sheet rock, how to insulate and air seal a home, roofing, siding, door and window installation, how to install kitchen cabinets and how to build some kitchen cabinets,” Cunningham said. “Plus, they learn how to install trim and paint.”
Cunningham said students will get experience using different tools, with a focus on safety. Once students complete the two-year program, they are certified in carpentry and ready to enter the workforce.
Using a simulated workplace model of learning, Cunningham said students actually build a modular home each year.
“We go through all of the steps I just described, and at the end of the year, the home is auctioned off,” Cunningham said. “So in the course of the program, they will participate in building two homes.”
Even if students do not plan to go into carpentry, the program teaches valuable skills that can be applied both in life and other areas of study.
“I was talking to a student just the other day, and I told him the skills would be beneficial even if he is going to college to be an engineer or an architect,” Cunningham said. “It all falls under that category. It will also help anyone who wants to learn how to do repairs or renovations on their own home.”
Cunningham said students considering the carpentry program should know that construction and carpentry are among the most needed careers in the United States.
“There are not enough folks now to do this work,” Cunningham said. “Most people have a 1.5 to 2 year wait list to build a house right now. If you want to make a good living, this is a great career. A good contractor can make $50 to $100 an hour. It is a very good trade and will always be needed – there are always repairs that need made and a need for new construction. I do not think it gets any better than that.”