Franklin County Technical School   82 Industrial Blvd.   Turners Falls, MA 413 . 863 . 9561

Landscaping and Horticulture Veterans Talk Shop with FCTS Students

A group of area landscaping and horticulture professionals told Franklin County Technical School students recently that education, motivation and a strong work ethic are the ingredients to success in the field.

FCTS landscaping and horticulture instructors Mark Amstein and Kurt Richardson organized the forum which featured Larry Bruffee of Northern Construction in Shelburne Falls, Kyle Snow of Snow & Sons Landscaping of Greenfield, Justin Bardwell of CountryScape Landscape Design and Construction of Shelburne Falls, Steve Malsch of Nourse Farms in South Deerfield, and Brett Gewanter of Deerfield Academy in Deerfield.

In a wide ranging discussion that lasted over an hour, the group spoke to students in the FCTS landscaping and horticulture program about how they got started in the business, what services their companies provide, why they like their jobs, how graduates can get hired, what the job opportunities are, the future of landscaping and horticulture and other topics.

When asked what qualities they are looking for in prospective employees, all of the guest speakers emphasized hard work, motivation and education.

“We’re looking for someone with a good work ethic and a positive attitude,” Snow said. “We can train someone, so we’re looking for people who have a willingness to learn, who listen and have an interest.”

Malsch said the greenhouse business is becoming more technologically driven, so an education is an important component to success.

“If you guys are going to move up, I can’t emphasize enough the need for an education,” he said. “You’re going to need a degree so you should continue your education beyond the tech school.”

Bardwell added that FCTS students “have the advantage of a technical school education,” but he is also looking for employees with a positive attitude.

“If you couple the two, or you have experience and further education, that’s the whole package and you’ll grow with the company,” he said. “If you want to grow as an employee, you need to be a proactive learner.”

Bardwell added that he spends each winter furthering his education by attending seminars and trade shows to keep updated on new developments in the field.

The panelists said there were a number of reasons they got into landscaping and horticulture, including the opportunity to work outside and the diversity of the jobs.

“I worked for different landscaping crews,” Bardwell said. “Every day was new, especially in landscape construction. There were new challenges every day. It was a really rewarding thing to do on a daily basis.”

Bruffee said he intended to pursue a career in residential landscaping, but found he enjoyed the industrial and commercial side of the business more.

“It gave me an opportunity to travel and do a lot of different things,” he said. “You always have to look for new opportunities. Don’t be afraid of change, embrace it.”

Gewanter gets a great amount of satisfaction working with a close knit crew on a variety of projects.

“I enjoy the camaraderie you develop with the people you work with,” he said. “The relationships you develop with people along the way is something has kept me going. When you work with people year after year, you rely on those people and your relationship gets deeper.”

Rapid advances in technology are changing the landscaping and horticulture business in many ways, said the panelists. Bruffee even said that Northern Construction uses two drones to help with getting the lay of the terrain in places with difficult access, like swampland.

Malsch said the major issues in the greenhouse industry are the lack of an educated, as well as an aging workforce.

“I read an article that said the average age of a greenhouse grower is between 55-62-years-old,” he said. “To attract people your age we need to change the old farmer’s mindset of working 50-60 hours a week to working 40 hours week.”

Other challenges include how to implement new government regulations regarding the use of pesticides and finding a skilled labor force. The good news for the students was that the landscaping and horticulture industries are growing, which is creating more opportunities, including in management.

“The workload will be increasing in the next 10-15 years, so there will be opportunities there,” Bruffee said. “There are always opportunities. We try to make sure every employee can move up to the next pay rate and grow with the company.”

The students appreciated the insights of the panelists about working in landscaping and horticulture field.

“I was glad to find out about what they look for and how to prepare myself,” said Matthew Smith, 17, of Conway.

The importance of an education resonated with Meagan Blais, 18, of Halifax, Vermont.

“As a senior looking at colleges, it was interesting to find out that four out of five of the speakers went to the Stockbridge School of Agriculture,” she said. “I should look into that. I work for a landscaping company in the summer, but I might lean toward agriculture.”

FCTS Players Puts the Humor and Heart into Spring Production

Romance with all of its joy and heartbreak will be given a hilarious spin when the Franklin County Technical School Players perform their spring production of A Night of Romantic Comedy.

The FCTS Players will perform two comedies during the show, “The 9 Worst Breakups of All Time,” written by Ian McWethy, and “That’s Not How I Remember It,” written by Don Zolidis. Both are side-splitting romps through the complicated condition known as love.

Performances will be on Friday, March 18 and Saturday, March 19, 2016 at the Shea Theater, 71 Avenue A in Turners Falls, MA. The shows begin at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults, and $5 for students and seniors. Call (413) 863-9561, ext. 233 to reserve tickets.

In the “The 9 Worst Breakups of All Time” audiences will go on a hilarious guided tour of the most horrendous breakups in history, starting in the Cro-Magnon era to the Civil War, right up through modern times. The message is, no matter how bad your heart was broken, it could have been worse.

“That’s Not How I Remember It” travels back to 1986 and the contrasting stories of how a Mom and Dad met and fell in love. The Mom remembers their courtship as a sappy romantic comedy and the Dad somehow makes himself the star of a karate battle in this uproarious homage to bad ‘80’s movies and faulty memories.

Director Dan Prasol, an FCTS science teacher, said audiences can expect something new and exciting from the FCTS Players and A Night of Romantic Comedy.

FCTS Players Puts the Humor and Heart into Spring Production

“We always like to do something that has not been done around here before,” he said. “These are two hilarious plays that haven’t been done in the Franklin County area.”

During a break from rehearsal recently, Kaiti Churchill, 18, of Turners Falls, who plays Lola in “That’s Not How I Remember It,” and Jessica in “The 9 Worst Breakups of All Time,” said she has been doing theater productions at FCTS since she was sophomore.

“This is my last one and I’ll miss it,” said the senior Health Technology student. “I love it. You get to know people. There are a lot of kids in the lower grades I never would have met if I didn’t do these plays.”

Churchill said Prasol has fostered an environment where the students are collaborators on the production.

“Everybody gets to have input,” she said. “Every single play has a little bit of everybody in it.”

Grayson Funk, 14, a freshman from Greenfield, is just starting his drama career at FCTS. This is his first production and he’s having a great time.

“I like the cast,” he said. “Everyone is really encouraging. It’s easy to do your own thing here and not worry about it.”

Funk, who is a Collision Repair and Refinishing student, is playing Barry, the lead in “That’s Not How I Remember It,” and Guy, who ends a romance by signing a Broadway song to his girlfriend in “The 9 Worst Breakups of All Time.”

Blue Williams, a 17-year-old junior in the Landscaping and Horticulture program, is only in “That’s Not How I Remember It,” where he plays Karl, “a classic 1980’s bully.”

“I like it better than any other play I’ve done,” Williams, who is from Greenfield, said.

Katie Shepherd, 17, a Cosmetology student from Greenfield, plays Katie, a mean girl whose boyfriend breaks up with her in “The 9 Worst Breakups of All Time,” and in “That’s Not How I Remember It,” plays Jessica, “a ditzy 1980’s school girl.” The junior said this is the first production she has been in at the school.

“It’s a good experience,” Shepherd said. “Everyone’s really open. It’s funny, it’s fun. It’s a bonding time.”

Pre-Employment Program gives back to the community

“No matter what your disability is, you can still help people/animals in need!”

On February 10th 2016, the Pre-Employment Program (PEP) students and teachers paid a visit to the Dakin Animal Shelter and the Ronald McDonald House in Springfield, MA. During our visit, Lori Swanson (Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society staff member) led students and staff on a tour of the facility and discussed what DPVHS does on a day to day basis. She also described how our students can volunteer and make a difference in their community. Students had the opportunity to hold and play with various cats in a designated cat playroom and pet the dogs that are currently available for adoption to interested parties. At the end of our visit, the students presented a check for $515.00 to DPVHS staff member Lori Swanson. This is the 8th year in a row that PEP students donated proceeds to Dakin from the popular yearly FCTS scarf sale. Over the past 8 years PEP has raised and donated over $4,500 to Dakin. PEP thanks everyone who have purchased scarves over the past years that have helped us raise this much money for animals in need.

Pre-Employment Program gives back to the community

On February 10th, the Pre-Employment program also visited the Ronald McDonald House where we donated 48 lbs of can tabs that we have been collecting for a year. That’s roughly 61,000 can tabs that were collected and donated by students, family, friends, and teachers within the FCTS community. PEP also donated a handmade art project made from individually painted canvas tiles. Lastly, using funds raised by completing recycling tasks, we donated puzzles, coloring books, reading books and painting supplies for the families who are currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House. Maureen Fay at RMH gave us a tour of the building and explained all of the services that RMH offer to families in need.

The PEP program is a unique, tuition based program designed for students with physical or cognitive challenges. This small, but effective program works with students on many educational and independent living skills to students ages 14 to 22. Academic skills such as reading, math and critical thinking are practiced daily. Life skills such as cooking, laundry, and shop trade skills such as building maintenance, auto detailing, recycling processing, and office technology are some of the employment skills that offer our students a better chance toward future independent living and job placement. Students also learn essential values of work ethic and community service.

Visitors to Franklin County Tech Open House Impressed

Corey Sutton of Turners Falls, who graduated from Franklin County Technical School in 1996, was recently touring the school during an Open House with his daughter Alyah, and was very impressed with what he saw.

“I love the upgrades they’ve made here,” said Sutton, who graduated from the collision repair and refinishing program. “The machine shop is very impressive, and when I was here they were ready to close the auto body shop, but now it’s doing great. The reputation of the school has changed since I graduated too. Now it’s the school to go to.”

The halls were crowded and the vocational shops buzzing with visitors as FCTS hosted hundreds of middle school students and their parents at the nighttime Open House. Earlier in the day, hundreds of more eighth graders toured the school.

Alyah Sutton said she was most interested in the FCTS cosmetology and culinary arts programs.

“I liked how nice everybody was,” she said.

In its 40th year, Franklin County Technical School offers vocational education in collision repair and refinishing, automotive technology, business technology, carpentry, cosmetology, culinary arts, electrical, health technology, landscaping and horticulture, machine technology, plumbing and heating, programming and web design, welding and metal fabrication, and a pre-employment program.

Margaret Browning-Milotte, of Northfield, whose daughter Whitney Huber-Browning is a Franklin County Technical School junior, was visiting the school during Open House to talk to her daughter’s teachers. She said she likes “everything about tech.” Browning-Milotte said the communication between families, and the school’s faculty, staff and administrators is terrific.

“You can come here at any time and talk to anyone,” she said.

A group of Franklin County Technical School’s best and brightest honed their leadership skills recently at the National Honor Society’s Leadership Experience and Development Conference (LEAD) in Arlington, Virginia.

Three of the technical school’s NHS representatives described their experiences to the school committee at its February meeting, and showed a student-made video to emphasize highlights of the trip. The students spent three days attending NHS workshops at the Hiatt Regency Crystal City Hotel and, during their free time, went sightseeing in Washington, D.C. at places like the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, National Museum of American History, United States Capital and other locations.

Tim Momaney, a senior from Turners Falls and NHS vice president, said following the school committee meeting that the most important aspect of the conference was the opportunity to interact with NHS chapters from schools from around the country.

“The biggest thing I got out of the trip was the openness of students from other schools on how they improved their schools,” he said. “We’ll just try to take what we learned and bring our student community closer.”

Anthony Ludwig, who showed the school committee a video he created about the trip, said one workshop exercise involved circulating through a room and meeting and talking to every person there. Other workshops combined fun activities with learning leadership skills.

“We went to another workshop where we talked about how to make our school’s pep rallies more exciting,” said Ludwig, who is a senior from Orange. “We had to dance around and not care what people thought. That was the most fun workshop I went to.”

Lindsey Mailloux, a senior from Erving, said the FCTS National Honor Society students “have gotten closer as a group. We all took home a memory.”

NHS faculty advisors Christopher Kusek and Melissa Gerry said the trip was invaluable for their students in a number of ways.

“We really tried to broaden their exposure to different communities,” Kusek said. “To see the kids interact with other kids from all over the country and bond with them was great.”

Besides Mailloux, Ludwig and Momaney, NHS members Fallyn Adams, Emmett Friedrichs and Gabe Vorce also attended the conference.

Gerry said the conference was an inspiration for the students as well as to and Kusek and herself.

“I hoped the kids would bring back a renewed energy and fresh ideas for new opportunities, events and ways that they can motivate other students to be more active within the school community,” she said.

The National Honor Society (NHS) was founded in 1921 to recognize outstanding high school students, and to recognize those students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character. Today, it is estimated that more than one million students participate in NHS activities. NHS chapters are found in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, many U.S. territories, and Canada.

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