USF OTI Education Center

USF Health - College of Public Health

Weitz Academy of Construction Partnership

Interviewer: Ms. Thalia Barber, USF SafetyFlorida and USF OTI Communications & Marketing

Interviewee: Mr. Rick Terkovich, Construction Academy Director and Instructor

Interview Questions

When was the program started?

The Weitz Academy of Construction program began in 2005. The same year that the Seminole Ridge Community High School opened.

What criteria must the potential home owner meet to obtain a home built by your students in the program?

The criteria for each home owner is determined solely by the Habitat for Humanity. The Weitz Academy of Construction does not make any determination in this process. Generally speaking however, the students do get the opportunity to meet with the selected home owner to learn more about their personal story.

 What is the criteria for students entering the program?

Student entry into the program is based on the student’s grade point average (GPA). Waivers are available to students with below average GPA’s, but they must be able to demonstrate a willingness to participate in the program and show academic improvement to remain in the program. Students generally enter the Construction Academy as freshman; however, all levels are accepted.

 How does this program impact the students? What do they learn from their participation in the program?

The benefits for our students are enormous! Student participation and level of motivation is through the roof (no pun intended). The [student’s] can’t wait to see the finished product that they have spent countless hours working on. The students sometimes need a reason to show up to school. In other words, some type of motivation that drives them. This program does just that for many of the students enrolled. This program contributes too many going to school, those staying in school and the drive to do well. Due in large part to the program, the class participation rate has increased by 5% in four years – the highest rate within the school. Likewise, we have seen an increase in the student graduation rate as well.

 The academy equips the students with a variety of skills – Concepts such as Geometry, Trigonometry and Calculus to Basic Physics and beyond are taught in our program. The students are able to apply the techniques learned in other classes to activities performed in the construction academy.

 What is the length of the program?

The Weitz Academy of Construction at Seminole Ridge Community High School is a 4 year program.

In a previous interview, you stated that the county inspects the students work to ensure certain requirements have been met. Training and education is everything! How do students demonstrate their knowledge to County Building Inspectors? And how does the USF OSHA Training Institute Education Center fit into the equation?

 At first, the County Building Inspectors were hesitant about a bunch of kids building and assembling a house. Therefore, the inspectors came to our campus for a closer look, and realized that the students were indeed well supervised and thoroughly trained. The inspectors were pleased with what they saw. They would even assist students with team building skills and helping them to understand building codes, with emphasis on the inspection process, as well as how to correct hazards on-site.

 Students of the construction academy earn the 10 and 30-hour in Construction training provided by an OSHA authorized trainer, of the USF OSHA Training Institute Education Center (USF OTIEC).

Several training program reduce the length of their program by one year and many companies increase the wage per hour based on the training and education received from both the Weitz Academy of Construction and the USF OSHA Training Institute Education Center. Companies know that if they hire our students, they have been well trained and educated. That speaks volumes!

 What are the benefits or partnering with the USF OSHA Training Institute Education Center?

The benefits are numerous. Having partnered with the USF OTIEC allows us to help the kids in so many ways. They receive more in-depth training and hands-on experience. They are also taught how to work safely.

 What certificates are available to students in this program?

Certifications include the OSHA 10 hour and 30-hour in Construction industry, The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), First-Aid, CPR, and Carpentry level 1 and Carpentry level 2 (for some). The OSHA # 7400 and #7405 training certificates will soon be available as well.

 Do the certifications that the USF OSHA Training Institute Education Center offer assist students with employment after leaving the program?

It most certainly does! In the last ten years, I can’t tell you how many employers have told me that one of the reasons why the hire our students, is because they have OSHA Training. It’s a huge advantage that they have over their competition.

 Do you have a system in place to measure if the high school students are hired once they receive OSHA authorized training?

Currently, there is not a system in place. However, we do conduct an ‘exit’ survey with the students to try and ascertain this information.

 What trades are available to students upon completion of your construction program?

Trades such as plumbing, carpentry, painting, and electrical to name a few are available to students post-graduation. Some students continue on to seek post-secondary degrees in construction related fields.

 What are some of your future goals for this program?

Some of the Construction academy’s future goals consist of continuation of program growth, the ability to offer additional certifications, and engage more students.

 How can the community participate in this program?

The community has been a tremendous help in this effort. Different members, organizations and small business owners have donated a vast majority of building materials to our program. The project did not cost us anything. We are thankful to the community for their efforts, and hope that they will continue to do so.