North Platte High School student Kyle Mull tries his hand at roofing as part of a pilot program at Mid-Plains Community College.
Two North Platte High School students are getting more than a head start on their college education this year – they're putting themselves a step ahead in terms of a career.
Zane Turner and Kyle Mull are part of a Building Construction Technology Career Academy piloted by North Platte Community College.
They spend their mornings at NPCC, learning alongside first-year college students in the building construction program. In the afternoons, they return to the high school to take English and government classes.
"I would highly recommend the career academy to anyone interested in going into construction," Turner said. "I thought it might be hard to go to high school and college at the same time, but everything has been so smooth. The instructors at both schools have been great about working around our schedules. It's definitely worth the effort. I've learned so much."
Mull couldn't agree more.
"I barely knew anything about construction when I came to the college," Mull said. "After the first month, my knowledge had grown by a ridiculous amount. NPCC has good instructors, which makes a huge difference. They don't just tell us what to do. They work beside us."
Dr. Jody Tomanek, area vice president of academic affairs and NPCC, said both the college and the high school put a lot of time and thought into the career academy and into developing a schedule that would be the best fit for students.
"The career academy is the result of a request by North Platte High that we work more closely with them on technical courses and degrees," Tomanek said. "We decided to pilot the academy with building construction knowing that program had some room and flexibility for students. If it works out, we would like to eventually be able to expand this type of academy concept to other schools and applied technology programs."
Austin Matthews, lab assistant for the building construction department at Mid-Plains Community College, demonstrates roofing to North Platte High School students Zane Turner and Kyle Mull.
Roger Fattig teaches first-year students in the building construction program. He's excited about the potential that exists for the career academy.
"Because of the nature of the beast, we're getting high quality students who have a better than average chance of succeeding in construction," Fattig said. "They are more ambitious, more aggressive. I'd hire them."
Turner and Mull found out about the career academy when Paul Knopick, the college's area enrollment coach, pitched it at their high school.
"We had both visited NPCC before and toured the building construction department with our industrial technology teacher, Jeff Henne, but Paul's visit was what really got us hooked," Mull said.
The career academy is open to high school seniors with a history of good attendance and good behavior. They must have successfully completed Woods I and II classes as well as a Computer-Aided Design and Drafting class. It's also recommended they take a construction class at the high school level.
Additionally, students must be in a position where English and Government are the only two high school-required classes they have left the fall semester of their senior year. They must submit three letters of recommendation and be Skills USA members.
Upon successful completion of the career academy, the students will receive a building construction certificate. They can earn an associate degree if they return and finish out a second year of the building construction program, which both Mull and Turner plan to do.
"I've always wanted to have my own construction business somewhere around North Platte," Turner said. "My family bought a two-story house in town, moved it to the country and remodeled it. That really fueled my interest. That's part of what I love about NPCC's building construction program. We get to build a house from scratch. I like hands-on work way better than bookwork."
While Mull doesn't have as much building experience as Turner, he, too, likes working with his hands.
"My dad did electrical and mechanical type work, so I guess I got some of that from him," Mull said. "I took as many woods classes as I could in high school because I enjoyed them so much. I would also like to own a construction business someday, but up in the Sandhills."
More information about MPCC's building construction program can be found online at mpcc.edu.