‘Adam has one of the best work ethics I’ve ever seen.’

Skilled, Ready and Willing
Adam Ricketts Has a Head Start on a Construction Career, Thanks to a New Summer Work Program

Story and Photos by:
Allen Allnoch

Summer vacation was approaching and Adam Ricketts needed to figure out how he was going to spend it. An A student with a solid work ethic, he certainly was going to find something productive to do.

So when Jeremy Whitaker, Construction Trades Teacher at Kennesaw Mountain High School, told his class about a new summer program called Skilled & Ready To Work, Adam jumped at the opportunity.

He ended up spending June and July 2016 with Penco Electrical Contractors, Inc., working full-time on an air conditioning and lighting project at McEachern High School in Powder Springs.

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“I presented the program to all my classes and Adam was the only one who stepped up to the plate,” Whitaker recalls. “He said, ‘I’ll do it. I’ll be the guinea pig,’ and he made $3,300 working just two months. For a high school junior, that’s amazing. When we started the new school year, I asked my students, ‘Hey, did any of you make $3,300 this summer?’ And not a one came close to that.”

Skilled & Ready To Work is a joint initiative between CEFGA and SkillsUSA Georgia to place high school construction students on job sites for the summer. Ten Atlanta-area industry partners participated in summer 2016.

“I learned a lot about electrical work,” Adam says, “but even more, I learned how to communicate with people on the job. The people you work with on a construction site are different from people you meet at school, so you had to learn how to cooperate with them and get things done.”

Adam became interested in construction after his older brother, David, went through Whitaker’s three-part Construction Pathway curriculum at Kennesaw Mountain High.

“He said he had a great time, so I took the first class,” Adam recalls. “I enjoyed that, so I took the next two.”

The first class in the sequence is Industry Fundamentals and Occupational Safety. Next is Intro to Construction, which gives an overview of carpentry, plumbing, electrical and masonry. The series finishes with Carpentry 1, a more in-depth exploration of a discipline in which Whitaker has particular expertise.

Whitaker has worked hard to get more students interested in construction, and to change the traditional perception of high school “shop class.” After arriving at KMHS five years ago, he launched “Redefining Blue Collar,” a 10-point vision statement that Cobb County Schools and industry partners have since adopted.

“Shop is a four-letter word to me,” Whitaker says. “There’s a stigma of construction class being a place to goof off and get an easy A. That’s not the way to redefine blue collar.”

Adam, David and other successful KMHS students are evidence the perception is changing – and not only at Kennesaw Mountain, but all over Georgia. Anyone who has witnessed the intense competition at the state SkillsUSA Championships can attest to that.

Adam, who serves as vice-president for Kennesaw Mountain’s SkillsUSA chapter, advanced to the state level after placing second in the regional competition last year. Though he didn’t place at the state SkillsUSA, he still impressed one of his interviewers enough that the man handed him a business card and said, “You can come work for me when you graduate.”

Whitaker was not surprised. “Adam has one of the best work ethics I’ve ever seen, and the best attitude,” he says. “He can do absolutely anything he wants to do, and I’m excited that he’s considering the skilled trades as a possible career. He gives 110 percent to everything, and I think that’s why he’s going to go really far.”

Now a senior, Adam is considering his options for what’s next. Participating in Skilled & Ready has expanded his notion of what’s possible.

“Penco offered to bring me back next year,” he says. “I might do it. It was a fun way to spend the summer, and I made a ton of money. If I go to college, I think I want to become an electrical engineer. But if I don’t, an electrician sounds like a pretty good career. I think I could do that.”

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