Twenty-six Building Trades students from the Adams County Technical Institute, along with their instructor Dave Snyder, recently enjoyed a morning away from their crafts workshop — only to visit another workshop, this one at the National Preservation Training Center (NPTC) in Frederick, Md.
Helen Kachur, an NPTC wood-crafter, explains the intricacies of paint and shellac in historic preservation to the students while Lori Munson, Workforce Development officer, observes.
The field trip, sponsored and coordinated by the Investing in Youth Initiative of Historic Gettysburg Adams County (HGAC), exposed the students to various facets of the work and training undertaken at the NPTC. Experienced National Park Service (NPS) preservationists, who staffed the workstations, guided the students through extensive presentations on carpentry and wood-crafting.
The NPS guides also gave students an in-depth explanation of the scope of work a preservationist performs, along with describing the incredible challenges of working with significant historic structures and the range of tools used in the work. In addition, other trade crafts, such as the science of paint and shellac, the challenges of historic glazing, and the historic production of glass, were covered.
The tour also included a look at warehouse operations as well as NPTC’s state-of-the-art hazardous lead removal/handling facility. Guides emphasized the importance of mathematics and chemistry as the knowledge that underlies this work. In all cases, the students learned specifically what a new hire would undergo in terms of training and expectations.
Students were enthusiastic about the visit and the presentations at the different workstations. “I enjoyed the demonstration of how they remove the lead paint from the old window sash,” Cayden Noel said. Miles Carignan said he “liked the explanation of the different types of glass for preservation work.”
Lori Munson, the ACTI Workforce Development officer, and HGAC Barn Preservation Specialist David Maclay also accompanied the students and reinforced the continuing need for trades craftsmen in timber framing and masonry to help preserve the barns of Adams County.
As the visit concluded, Ranger Jessica Bender, an experienced NPS mason herself and currently the Training Administrator for the NPTC, shared information on two programs open to high school trades graduates. These programs can be thought of as “proving grounds” since the positions are not permanent government jobs but are either internships or temporary hires. In both cases, this experience would bolster an individual’s job application when pursuing a permanent NPS position since the work would be performed under the supervision of an experienced NPS preservationist. Bender emphasized the continuing and growing need and, consequently, the opportunity that exists for young craftsmen to enter the preservationist workforce as the field is starting to show signs of stress from a shortage of workers.
Greg Kaufmann, HGAC coordinator for the Investing in Youth Initiative, summarized the experience as “exposing the students to another, valid career path to answer an important need” as opposed to residential housing or commercial building. Kaufmann also noted the NPTC workforce travels all over the United States to perform critical preservation work. So, if someone has a “wanderlust” to see the world, this career path presents such possibility.
As the students departed, they carried with them an understanding of both the career possibilities as well as the important role our NPS historic preservationists play in maintaining our nation’s most significant historic structures for future generations.