Learning and earning

DAYTON, OHIO - Adam Hildebrand is helping to build schools. In the process, he is also building his future.

Hildebrand, 18, is finishing up his vocational education this spring at Miami Valley Career Technology Center by working as an apprentice electrician for Beacon Electric Co., which has a history of hiring the school's graduates. Officials of Miami Valley Career Technology Center, a Clayton-based career technical school that draws high school juniors and seniors from 27 schools in five southwest Ohio counties, said Hildebrand and other building trades students should have a promising job source in commercial and industrial construction.

The $332 million construction program that the government plans from now through 2011 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, to accommodate military research programs that will be relocating there, creates an appetite for construction contractors and skilled workers, the school's officials said.

Hildebrand already has a job waiting for him with Beacon Electric. He is helping to construct a public school project in Washington Court House for the electrical contracting company and also working on Westwood Elementary School, a $12 million project n Dayton.

Westwood is one of three new schools the Dayton district plans to open in August. He is following two brothers into building trades work. His apprenticeship allows him to alternate between two consecutive weeks in the classroom and two weeks on a construction site, earning $10 an hour. There are advantages to getting away from the classroom, beyond cultivating a relationship with an employer, Hildebrand said.

"More freedom," he said of the workplace. "There's a lot less rules."

Tim Ely, vice president of construction for Cincinnati-based Beacon Electric, serves on an advisory committee for MVCTC's electrical trade programs. The company works throughout the Cincinnati-Dayton corridor and has had good luck hiring vocational school graduates, Ely said.

Apprentices start with hourly pay of $10 and can, with time and experience, move up into journeyman electrician ranks and earn $30 an hour or more, he said. Employers like to keep the students they have trained, said Dale Frost, MVCTC's apprenticeship coordinator.

"These kids, they get their foot in the door," Frost said. "They've got a great opportunity."


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