Olympics contestants were up to the task

February 01, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

Marc Jedlowski makes a daily 298-mile round-trip commute from his home in Cumberland, Md., to his job in Baltimore, where he does electrical work and welding for a company.

"I wanted to find a way to go through school and make money at the same time," said Jedlowski, who takes night classes at the Cumberland Valley Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors' education center at 219 Frederick St. in Hagerstown.

The center held its annual Skills Olympics for third- and fourth-year students at the center Saturday.

During the event, carpentry students were given a set of blueprints and told to make a section of a building, including wood and metal studding, a door frame, steps and drywall.


Electrical students installed a circuit, while those in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration tore down an oil burner and did some troubleshooting on a simulated air conditioning system.

About 190 students, all adults, take classes at the center. Graduates rack up on-the-job hours and hours in class needed to earn their journeyman certification.

The school has 20 part-time teachers.

The students work in the trades in the daytime and take classes at night, chapter President Joan L. Warner said. She calls the center a "college in the trades."

The average age of the center's students is early 20s, although some are in their 40s, forced to learn new skills because of job losses, Warner said.

Less than 5 percent of the center's students are women, said James Rock, chairman of ABC's board of directors and president of GRC Construction in Zullinger, Pa.

Jedlowski, who graduated from Allegany High School in Cumberland, wants to one day get a degree in electrical engineering.

"I guess that means six more years of night school," he said.

Greg Leikus, 48, of Hagerstown, a fourth-year student in HVAC-R, and Joe Thomas, 24, of Cumberland, a third-year student, started as helpers for companies in the business.

And both have the same ultimate goal: to one day own their own HVAC-R company.

"Any student who graduates from here can go anywhere in the country," Warner said.

"We have a number of contractors who came through this program," Rock said. "Many start their own business."

In addition to the basic courses, students also take classes in construction management, estimating, blueprint reading, safety training and business, among others, Rock and Warner said.

The Cumberland Valley Chapter of ABC began its educational program in 1964 to train students for the construction trades. It has more than 200 members in the Tri-State area, including building contractors and companies that supply the trades, Rock said.

Winners in Saturday's Olympics included:


  • First place - Mark McMahon

  • Second place - Michael Wildasin

  • Third place - Chris Mills


  • First place - William Archambeau

  • Second place - Andrew Malcolm

  • Third place - Jonathan Eckels


  • First place - Gregory Leikus

  • Second place - Joe Thomas

  • Third place - Robert McKenny Jr.

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