In Camden County High’s Construction Program, Expectations Are High and Classes Are Far More Than a Simple Academic Exercise
If a student at Camden County High School has a genuine interest in a construction career, Carlos Jones Jr. will make sure he or she is well-prepared when it’s time to go to work.
Jones, who has taught at the Kingsland school since 1996, holds his students to the same standards required by professional contractors in the field.
“You can’t expect a kid to build a quality product if you don’t hold them to that standard,” Jones says. “In the real world, it’s a question of how much money are you going to make [for the employer]? From a business standpoint, they want the kid who’s going to make them money – the one who’s going to be there on time, be productive, and when they does the job, it’s right.
“Everything we build is to the code. If we don’t hold them to those standards, how are they going to get to the
next level? If I don’t hold a kid to a high standard in here, the boss is still going to out on the job site.”
Jones is carrying on a tradition of high standards and successful graduates set by his father, Carlos Jones Sr., who preceded him as head of the Camden County construction program. The younger Jones initially taught welding, sheet metal and machining. Since 2010 his program has encompassed carpentry, electrical, cabinet making, industrial motor control, masonry and plumbing.
Camden students in each of those disciplines have placed first in the SkillsUSA State Championships hosted by CEFGA in Atlanta. In 2016, the school produced three SkillsUSA national champions: Knute Jones in Industrial Motor Control, and Brooke Butler and Nancy Marquez in Occupational Health and Safety.
Jones’s students apply their skills and gain experience by working on projects that benefit the southeast Georgia community – everything from building a home for a veteran in need, to benches in local and state parks, to a dog park constructed in honor of Sgt. Kevin Barber, a deceased K9 police officer who had been a student of Carlos Jones Sr.
For a student aspiring to a career in the skilled trades, Jones offers decades of his own experience in the business, plus an extensive network of professional contacts in the region. In the learning lab, he’s a keen observer, roaming from station to station, answering questions, dispensing advice, and correcting mistakes when necessary.
“They’re going to make mistakes,” he says, “but [in the classroom] is where they need to make those mistakes. And most employers don’t have a problem if you own up to a mistake. They have a bigger problem if you try to cover up something that ends up costing more in the end.”
Jones’s network includes residential contractors, the local IBEW, JEA (the electrical utility in nearby Jacksonville, Florida) and Kings Bay, the East Coast home to the U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class submarines. More than 80 Camden graduates are employed at the latter.
“Every contractor I talk to around here is not afraid to put kids to work,” Jones says. “But a kid has to understand that they get one recommendation from me. If I get a call from a contractor saying, ‘Hey, don’t send me any more kids like that,’ that’s it.”
Even far removed from metro Atlanta, as Camden County is, students in Georgia who are willing to learn and work hard have ample opportunities for construction careers. They’ll be rewarded with fulfilling work and competitive pay.
In the case of Camden County graduates, there’s a payoff for their former instructor, too.
“I love working with kids and seeing them be successful,” Jones says. “One of the greatest things I can see a kid do is go out there and work, and then two or three years later, they come up and say, ‘Mister Jones, thank you so much.’ To see students become successful in their lives is the greatest pay I can receive as an educator.”