Ricky Smith’s building and construction technology students at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology are keeping busy.
They’ve just about completed the first phase of their project house, currently under construction across Miller Ave. from the campus.
“Then I turn it over to industrial maintenance and the HVAC programs for rough-ins for those systems,” Smith said.
While that’s going on, Smith’s students will be working on a project with the Cumberland County School System to build a classroom for the Transition Academy, with an apartment-like layout.
They will also be working on projects at the Cumberland County Archives, where plans are to correct some problems with the church-turned-archives storage facility with flooring and drop-ceiling work.
“It’s good to have projects like this,” Smith said. “They get the full knowledge of instruction.”
Students completing the 12-month, 1,296-hour program graduate with a carpenter’s diploma and carpenter helper certificate.
“They have the knowledge,” Smith said. “They are worthy of being hired for more experience.”
And TCAT’s program not only ensures students have technical competence, but professional competence, as well. The school has standards for attendance and work ethic.
Even during winter months, Smith said students work on their projects — provided the temperature doesn’t fall below freezing.
Smith has about 10 students in the program at this time, with new students welcome at any time. TCAT offers high school students dual enrollment opportunities with up to 452 hours toward their carpenter diploma.
Robert Luhouse started the program in July. He has 17 years of experience in remodeling homes but was interested in learning about the process of building from the start.
Devin Rhodes said he’d worked on a few remodeling jobs with his father and loved the work.
“I want to make a career out of it,” he said.
The three trimesters provide students instruction in construction safety, math and measurement, plans and codes, framing, drying in, interior systems, finish carpentry and masonry.
Students do need to provide some of their own tools. That adds to the cost of the program, though Smith said he is very flexible with where students get their equipment.
“My tool list is only about $100 — and I don’t care if they buy them at the flea market,” he said, noting second-hand tools often work just as well. “It’s a basic hammer, measuring tape, and basic tools like that.”
Students who qualify can use federal student aid and the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs to cover their tuition and fees. However, the cost of tools and textbooks are not covered by the last-dollar state programs.
TCAT works with area civic organizations, clubs, and nonprofit agencies to help students fill the gap between their funding and the cost of their education. Many local organizations offer scholarships or other aid programs for students.
TCAT also accepts donations of tools that can help building and construction technology students get started on their education. Anyone wishing to donate tools as they work toward downsizing a home or spring cleaning may contact TCAT at 931-484-7502, ext. 126.