BY JEN HORTON
Rick Hervey, carpentry teacher at DeLand High School, teaches some of the most gifted students on campus, if you ask him.
“My kids come in here, many say they are struggling in their academic classes and worried about passing their EOC exams to pass their grade or graduate,” he said. “These same students are shining stars in my class. I have no real behavior problems; most students want to be in this class.”
Hervey is a second-generation carpentry teacher. He teaches kids to use their hands and their brains, but most importantly, he teaches them the value of work.
“I was not that academically inclined,” he said. “But I have the desire to work.”
His kids have that desire. While they may struggle sitting still, or writing a long essay, they blossom into leaders when they walk into his class. The carpentry program puts tools in students’ hands, and has them produce real work, immediately.
The carpentry program is part of Volusia County Schools Career and Technology Education — academies and classes that offer career training for both college- and career-bound students. They encompass career paths such as the Engineering Academy at DeLand High School, but there have been expansions into work-ready programs, such as Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Heating (HVAC) Technology at Pine Ridge High School. Both CTE paths offer students academic and hands-on experience.
Hervey’s students talked about how hands-on work made them feel, and why it was important. Some students said it gives you skills for handling problems throughout your life.
“Learning to do things with your own hands gives you lifelong skills and gives you more experience. It’s also fun to be able to work on things yourself,” junior Noah Mckay said.
“It helps you later in life when you have to face problems on your own,” freshman Lincoln Andrews said.
Some students talked about how preparing and executing a project is a skill that can also be used for a lifetime, and it builds confidence.
“Learning to do things with my own two hands is important because when the time comes that I have to do something myself I know I can accomplish it,” senior Joshua Shea said.
Many, many career paths
Dr. Daniel Cox, Career and Technical Education curriculum specialist for Volusia County Schools, talked about the different career paths that Volusia’s CTE programs are offering to West Volusia students. There are six construction programs right now: DeLand High School, Deltona High School, New Smyrna Beach High School, Seabreeze High School and T. DeWitt Taylor-Middle High all have Building Trades and Construction Design Technologies, and DeLand High also offers carpentry.
“The Building Trades and Construction Design Technology program covers a variety of basic construction trade skill sets,” Cox said.
The content of the programs is to prepare students for employment, or advanced training. CTE programs are designed to offer a student a springboard for both higher learning and immediate trade employment.
Cox said there are about 720 students enrolled in the Building Trades and Construction Design Technology program across the district and about 200 in the carpentry program at DeLand High School, and the numbers have been stable over the past several years.
These programs lead to good job skills, and that’s always in demand.
“This type of work translates into so many career paths,” Rick Hervey said.
He has alumni reach out to him regularly. Hervey’s graduates have gone on to own businesses and make real waves in the trades.
“The biggest blessing to me is to hear about these students who went far beyond what I accomplished,” Hervey said. “And to know I was a part of their journey.”
Hervey has been a CTE teacher for 42 years, 13 of those at DeLand High. He also teaches carpentry at Florida United Methodist Children’s Home.
Eric Olsen, owner of Olsen Custom Homes and president of the Volusia Building Industry Association (VBIA), talked about the need for skilled labor, right now, in the construction industry.
“Construction is one of the largest labor markets in Florida,” Olsen said. “We don’t have enough kids coming into the trades to support the jobs created in the industry on a regular basis.”
Olsen said trade school, or choosing a construction job, doesn’t negate the need for higher education. His son is a college graduate who chose to come back home to work for his dad.
“We support anything related to implementing construction education in school,” Olsen said. “It’s not like it used to be, there are huge opportunities out there.”
Dr. Cox agreed. He thinks these types of career paths are a necessity in the community.
“Volusia County is currently experiencing skilled-labor shortages in every industry sector. All of them are important, and construction jobs are especially essential given the impact of the number of people moving to Florida each year,” Cox said. “That is exacerbated by the damage we suffer each year as a result of tropical storms, hurricanes and other weather events.”
Eric Olsen added that high labor demand means high paychecks.
“Kids now can write their own checks,” Olsen said. “There are market shortages in every part of the industry: plumbing, electricity, HVAC, framers, window installers, just across the board.”
Olsen has produced custom homes for 25 years, and he started off wondering how to begin. A DeLand High graduate from a poor family, he attended community college, earned an associate of arts degree, and then got approached by a trade school. He gravitated toward hands-on work.
“I mowed lawns,” he said. “I worked my way into construction, and at 26 I got my contractor’s license.”
By the age of 29, he started his business, and his personal work in trade set his life in motion in a way that quite literally changed the face of the community he lives in. He believes this is attainable for a lot of students.
“This is the best time, ever, to start a business,” Olsen said. “So, it’s important to know how to run a business. You have to have the ability to balance a checkbook, buy the right insurance and get the right licenses.”
These are the exact skills Volusia County Schools is bringing to the table. How to work, how to run a business, how to navigate the world as a successful adult.
“Students really enjoy hands-on learning,” Cox said, “These courses are designed to help students develop valuable skill sets that will be beneficial to them whether they enter a career in a construction trade or not.”
Not sitting around on arts and education
The Arts Culture and Entertainment District (ACED) of DeLand purchased 24 Adirondack chairs built by the DeLand High School carpentry program. The chairs were decorated by local artists, and then, as part of a fundraiser, auctioned off. The purchasers donated the chairs back to the city, who installed them around town for residents to enjoy.
Kieu Moses, risk, safety and events manager for the City of DeLand, is the administrator for the ACED, and said ACED is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote art in DeLand in all of its modalities. “We don’t just focus on the Downtown CRA [Community Redevelopment Agency],” Moses said. “We’re looking to expand outside of the bounds of the CRA.” For more information, visit www.artsdistrictdeland.com.
Want to own a chair or other piece of carpentry produced by the DeLand High School carpentry program? Click HERE for more information.
For more information about CTE programs in Volusia County Schools, visit vcsedu.org and click on “Academics” and then “Career and Technical Education.”
For more information about VBIA, visit vbia.wildaprocot.org
For more information about ACED, visit artsdistrictdeland.com
To get a flyer listing the DHS carpentry projects available for sale, email Rick Hervey at firstname.lastname@example.org.