Students in the farm mechanics program at Presque Isle Tech Center have the opportunity to participate in a new program that allows them to apply what they are learning in the classroom to the real world of work.
Darrell Espling, farm mechanics teacher at PITC, plays an integral role in implementing the off-site work experience program. He establishes partnerships with area businesses to ensure students are placed with a company that aligns with their area of interest. Espling also monitors the student’s progress by maintaining regular contact with the business to make sure the placement is going well.
Parker Sawyer, a second-year farm mechanics student, has been participating in the work experience program since November and works at United Ag & Turf in Presque Isle. There, he has learned a variety of mechanical techniques. “It’s different everyday,” Sawyer said. “I could be putting together a snowblower one day and taking a tractor apart the next.” In addition to learning new knowledge and skills, Sawyer has been practicing what he has learned in the farm mechanics program in the workplace and is putting his skills to good use.
Diana Poirier, service writer at United Ag & Turf, stated that Sawyer has been an asset to their company. “Parker has a very good work ethic,” she said. “His knowledge and skill when he started was exceptional for a high school student. Parker’s willingness to learn and take in all the information he is presented with has helped him show tremendous growth since joining us at United Ag & Turf.”
Sawyer has worked closely with his mentor, Tim Somers, a veteran small ag technician at United Ag & Turf. “He has taught me a lot and is very knowledgeable,” stated Sawyer. According to Poirier, Sawyer can complete projects independently. “Parker is now able to complete standalone projects with very little oversight, showing results that exceed our expectations,” she stated.
Sawyer has demonstrated a positive impact on the company. “Having Parker’s aptitude and attitude has greatly benefited United Ag & Turf with his upbeat morale. We look forward to him staying on this summer after graduation and learning even more skills,” stated Poirier.
“Parker has had an amazing experience working with United Ag & Turf,” Espling stated. “Every time I talk with the general manager, service manager, the mechanics and the salespeople, they all have nothing but good things to say about Parker,” he said. “I have really enjoyed talking with Parker to learn what he has been working on. His face brightens up when he is telling me about some of the experiences he has had at United Ag & Turf.”
The flexible schedule provided with the work experience program and by United Ag & Turf has allowed Sawyer to work during the school day, during his regularly scheduled class time at PITC, three days a week in addition to Saturdays. “I work between 15 and 20 hours a week,” Sawyer said. With this schedule, he is able to continue developing his skills in the farm mechanics program two days a week.
Sawyer is grateful to have had this opportunity, stating that it will open doors for him in the future in regards to employment. Sawyer recommends the work experience program to other students in the farm mechanics program. “It was definitely fun.” Sawyer said. “I enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. And, if you’re getting paid, that is another plus,” stated Sawyer. After Sawyer graduates from Washburn High School in June, he plans to attend Northern Maine Community College to study welding and diesel hydraulics.
Espling encourages his students to participate in the work experience program. “My students should take full advantage of this opportunity,” stated Espling. “It shows them what the real world is like. If they enjoy what they are doing and are good at it, then they will not have a problem finding a good paying job in their near future, possibly right out of high school,” said Espling.
Espling is eager to collaborate with additional businesses in the community and expand work experience options for his students. Both Poirier and Espling look forward to continuing their partnership and giving students like Sawyer this opportunity in the future.
The Presque Isle Tech Center serves high school students in the Central Aroostook area including Presque Isle, Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Easton, Washburn, Ashland, and Mars Hill. For more information about the farm mechanics work experience program or any of the programs at the PITC, please contact 207-764-1356 or visit www.sad1.org/o/pitc.