Expertise cannot be inherited; it must be introduced, taught and trained. At Parr Lumber, one of the largest building material suppliers in the nation, this notion is being built to last.
CTEC Graduates Tim Kiser, 20, and Michael Elder, 18, work the yard at Parr Lumber by hauling stacks of construction lumber to various trucks for shipment orders. Tall pilings of wood lie in formation throughout the yard creating pyramid-like establishments that require skill to navigate. Without a second thought, Kiser and Elder stroll through this maze of wood, knowing exactly where to step, not only earning a living but gaining an experience their peers only dream of.
“It’s really cool to be here and be behind the scenes, and see where all the materials come from,” says Kiser. “Helping people find what kind of lumber they are going to need to actually make their vision come true is awesome.”
“I absolutely love it here,” shares Elder.
Kiser and Elder are both graduates from the Residential Construction program at CTEC. CTEC is a career technical education program that offers ten exciting and innovative programs including Residential Construction; Manufacturing, Welding, and Engineering; Cosmetology; Video and Game Design Animation; Drone Technology and Robotics; Auto Body Repair and Painting; Law Enforcement; Business Development and Leadership; Culinary Arts Management; and Agriscience. It is open to 11th and 12th grade students in the Salem-Keizer School District.
While Kiser and Elder have gained excellent training in the world of construction, they also work to debunk the belief that trade school isn’t a place for forward-thinking people. Just as attending formal education garners generational prestige, discovering the wonders of a trade can create positive ripples which extend across households.
“My older brother went through the construction program at CTEC and told me it was a ton of fun,” says Elder. “He loved every part of it, and I thought that it would be a great thing to go through.”
Although experiential learning can create natural interest in a particular industry, true passion for the work is an element that cannot be instilled through fervent repetition.
From an early age, Kiser always found himself wanting to build things.
“I’ve always loved doing hands-on work,” says Kiser. “It’s just how my mind works.”
Kiser’s passion for building has led him through CTEC’s Residential Construction program, and now finds himself studying mechanical engineering at Chemeketa Community College. He has even built, from the ground up, a playhouse structure for the daughter of his previous manufacturing teacher. With such a competent line of experience, there is little doubt that Kiser’s career will continue to bear fruit.
Individuals like Kiser and Elder are the reason programs such as CTEC not only gather public interest but private as well.
“Even though CTEC is a school, it’s treated like a job,” states Location Manager David Qualls. “They (the students) come in with some of those basic job skills and they carry themselves very well.”
Students who enter CTEC receive professional technical education while also obtaining practical lessons in the art of being young professionals.
“One of the grades that we got was a professionalism grade,” explains Elder. “When we had visitors come in, we were taught to stand up straight and give firm handshakes.”
Moreover, Michael and Tim were given professional training on how to be interviewed and maintain eye contact during conversations, and various other communicate techniques
“CTEC is really setting them up to go into the real world versus something that you can just teach in a normal classroom,” says Qualls.
The Residential Construction program is also no stranger to the changing of social tides. On the contrary, they welcome it. Between the two years in which Kiser graduated from the program, and Michael entered, the number of women studying in this field doubled from 13 to 30. Excitement about this progress is present from those who witnessed it.
“At CTEC, nobody really cared who you were, where you came from,” explains Michael. “It never felt like there was any sort of separation or segregation or things like that. It was just one giant team working for what they love.”
As rain perpetually sprinkles from the sky, Michael and Tim continue to go about their daily schedules, in constant physical motion but remaining reflective on the role their education played in their careers.
“I’ve had a job for two years now, and I’ve got a huge leg up on that than other people,” says Michael. “My education showed me what the real world is, and then afterwards said, ‘now it’s your turn to go into it.”