ST. PETERSBURG — A person can lose their job for any number of reasons, but the skills they have acquired can last a lifetime. This is the motto of Harry Brown, Building Construction Technologies instructor at the St. Petersburg campus of Pinellas Technical College (PTC).
Brown has been an instructor at PTC for the past nine months, and has been in the construction industry for more than 25 years. College isn’t for everyone, and Brown believes that a trade is going to be more beneficial for someone when they’re looking for a job versus having a college degree.
The Building Technologies program is a yearlong course consisting of 1,050 hours of training. It teaches basic construction and is designed for a person with absolutely no experience or limited experience in the building construction industry.
Carpentry, site work, masonry, electrical, plumbing, dry wall and window installation are skills that a student in the program will learn.
The program is open to high school students for dual enrollment or for anyone with an interest in learning a construction trade. As a student progresses in class, paid
internships become available so that they can receive real-world work experience.
The program consists of classroom instruction and hands-on experience in the building yard where they practice what was taught in class.
The first few weeks of instruction is all about teaching students building construction safety. The safety curriculum is taught through videos, worksheets and walking the students through construction sites teaching subjects such as fall hazards, trip hazards, making sure ladders are at appropriate heights and handrails are installed properly. The proper use of hand tools and personal protection equipment is also taught.
Following safety instructions, students are taught how the industry operates with different topics such as pulling permits, zoning and estimates.
“After teaching them the beginning phases of building construction, the students are anticipating getting their hands on tools to start building,” said the Miami native with a chuckle.
But before the students can get their hands on power tools, they’re taught how to properly use manual equipment. They must use a handsaw to cut lumber, and they’re not allowed to use drills to make the job easier. This teaches the students to have more appreciation for power tools once they get to that phase. It also teaches them how to properly use hand tools if ever a power tool is not available.
“Basically during the hand tools training, if they need to drill something, they’re drilling with a hand tool, using their physical muscles instead of relying on how easy it is using a power tool,” he said. “Once they get to use the power tools, they’re like, ‘Why couldn’t we have done this from the start? It is so much easier using the power tools.’”
The construction industry is back on the rise and employers visit the campus prior to graduation looking for potential employees.
Brown has been in construction management for the past 20 years, and holds a B.S. in construction engineering from Florida A&M University. He also has a general contractor’s license.
He encourages women with an interest in construction to enroll in the program because there is a demand for more women in the industry. He doesn’t think women should be intimidated from learning or working in construction because it’s thought of as a man’s job. Through the years Brown has seen plenty of women doing the exact same jobs as men. Currently, they have three women out of the 18 students enrolled in the program.
Brown hopes to increase the enrollment rate to 25-30 students. There are five enrollment terms offered throughout the year. The next enrollment term starts in October, and the last of the five is offered in July. The program is also designed for working individuals or parents with classes starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 12:15 p.m.
If you’re interested in exploring this career path, please visit www.pcsb.org/ myptc or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available.