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Special School District of St. Louis County
 
North Tech Alumnus Makes
Unique Transition to Work

In today’s economic climate, it is not always easy for graduating seniors in high school or college to find work in their desired field. Often, graduation day is a celebration that is quickly followed by a period of job hunting or working in an area outside one’s expertise. But in a time when few students are able to go straight from graduation to work, one recent graduate was able to do even better than that—starting work in his field just prior to his graduation.

Cameron Smith, a 2015 graduate of the carpentry program at SSD’s North Technical High School, earned and started a position with Waterhout Construction Company on the day before he received his diploma.

What’s equally unique is that one of Cameron’s first jobs was doing carpentry work on SSD’s new Northview High School and renovated Ackerman School—both located right next to his alma mater, North Tech.

“I went back to visit a few times on my lunch break,” Cameron said. “To get my OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) card, to pick up my varsity letter and to tell people there how much I missed them and how much I missed school.”

In addition, he also brought with him a bit of advice for future students in the carpentry program, expressing the importance of taking tests seriously and knowing that the workday out in the field is much longer and challenging than a school day.

“It hit me pretty quickly,” said Cameron when asked about moving right into the workforce. “There’s a lot more required of you when you’re working—the pace and expectations. Eight hours per day, it’s a lot more work.”

But even so, the training he received at North Tech prepared him to be ready on day one. “You don’t feel overmatched when you get out there. When I go to each site, I know how to do the jobs because I learned them in class,” Cameron said. “I’m a younger guy, but they treat me like I’ve been there many years.”

“To have a job before you graduate—that’s an awesome thing,” said North Tech carpentry instructor Byron Lane. “We usually place a few into the field each year, but it’s not usually that fast."

Lane said one of the other major benefits of the carpentry program at North Tech is that graduates finish with multiple certifications and six college credits toward a construction management degree.

“It gives them a leg up,” Lane said.

Lane also has helped facilitate meet-and-greet visits between construction companies and students. This was integral in Cameron landing a job so quickly.

“They came in and targeted him,” Lane said. “Then they were able to mentor him and help him stay on track.”

In the future, Cameron has his eyes on “journeying out,” which means continuing to further his skills and education in the trade through more schooling and certifications to reach the level of journeyman.

But already he’s made a mark through his work. If you happen to be traveling through the new Northview High School, two of the most distinct features are the unique panels along the walls and the large amounts of natural light coming through the windows. Cameron helped with the installation of both.

“There are a lot of benefits and lot of pride in it,” Cameron said. “It’s a prestigious job for me, being 19. A lot of people are impressed where I am already.”

Published November 2015

photo of Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith


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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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