• Building and Construction Pathway


    Farmersville Pre-Apprentices Train Hands-On!

    At the Farmersville High School pre-apprentice program, instructor Dennis Clark (in the background), Local 1109, helps students like Daniel Ayala and Jesse Ledesma (in the blue shirt) learn the basics of carpentry. Here, students prepare as the crane readies to move a shed to a different location. 


    Students within the Building Trades class are guided through the following stages:
    Introduction to Apprenticeship
    Layout Instruments
    Blueprint Reading Basics
    Blueprint Reading- Advanced
    Concrete Formwork
    Roof Framing
    Door Hardware
    Engineered Structural Systems 

    When the pre-apprentice students at Farmersville High School in the Sierra foothills walk into instructor Dennis Clark's classroom, they can expect to learn the basics of the carpentry trade.

    "We go from concrete work and figuring volumes for estimating concrete, to framing walls and hands-on training with saws and the other tools of the trade," says Clark, who retired after 30 years as a carpenter with Local 1109 in Visalia.

    The pre-apprentice program at Farmersville High School is in its second year now, with 20 students currently enrolled in pre-apprenticeship classes. What Clark's students may not know is that they're the fortunate beneficiaries of a mentoring legacy.

    "When I was an apprentice," Clark says, "I had a carpenter, Don Helt, take me on. He taught me the whole trade, from concrete to finish work and cabinetry. … This experience was given to me, and I wanted to give it back."

    Even before retirement, Clark said he's always been inspired to see apprentices he worked with when he was carpenter, and then a foreman, evolve in their own careers.

    "I saw them go from carpenters to foremen, and become leaders," Clark says. "I was always proud to see it."

    Last year, 10 students completed Farmersville's pre-apprenticeship program, and two graduates, Sijifredo Espinoza, Jr. and Jesse Ledesma, are already employed on projects in the area.

    Espinoza, 19, is working alongside his father for Oral Micham Construction at the new elementary school at Shannon Ranch. Both father and son are members of Local 1109.

    "Working with Dennis was really helpful," Espinoza, Jr. says of the Farmersville program. "I'm working on the [Shannon school] project pretty much like anybody else. It's good pay, and it's a good job to get me on my feet."

    Jesse Ledesma, 19, echoes Espinoza in support of the program—and the instructor.

    "I joined the program not knowing anything about what I wanted to do," Ledesma, a Local 1109 member, says. "Dennis Clark encouraged me, even when I wanted to quit, and he told me about how I could get a job with good pay."

    Ledesma's dedication and effort paid off.

    "I graduated high school on a Friday," he says. "On Monday, I signed the papers with Harris Construction, and on Tuesday, I started work at the Tulare District Hospital project."

    Next spring, there will surely be other prepared and eager graduates of Farmersville High School's pre-apprenticeship program, ready to take up their tools and get to work.

    "When this opportunity to work with the program at the high school came along, I was very enthused," Clark says. "Apprenticeship programs are good for the students, they're good for the union, and they're good for the trade."

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