LACONIA — Huot Technical Center plumbing and heating students Thursday morning completed the installation of a drinking fountain/water bottle filling station at Opechee Park.
''From start to finish it took us a couple of weeks. We did everything from digging the trench to installing all of the pipes from the bathhouse to the station,'' said R.J. Pauley, 18, of Laconia, He said that students from the building construction program at the Huot Center also contributed to the project by pouring the concrete for the base of the fountain.
Pauley, who also serves as teaching assistant for Mike Schofield, who teaches the class, said that he appreciates the opportunities for hands-on learning that the class provides.
''It's more useful than regular school classes,'' says Pauley, who, according to Schofield, already has offers of apprenticeship jobs with two local plumbing firms.
''It gives students real-world skills that they can build a career on,'' says Schofield, who says that members of the class work closely with the Laconia Parks and Recreation Department on projects in city parks and every year open the water lines in all of the parks and shut them off in the late fall.
''Last year we put in all new bathrooms at Memorial Park and also did a lot of work on the concessions stands at Laconia High School's new athletic field. These are great learning experiences for our students,'' says Schofield.
He's particularly grateful to Parks and Rec, noting that ''they call me for everything and if there's any way we can get to do it we try and help out.''
Students in the class, like Nate Furbish of Gilford, who says what the class does is ''awesome'', enjoy the chance to work on projects which benefit the community and point them out with pride to their fellow students.
Schofield, now in his third year at the Huot Center, said enrollment in the class has been increasing in recent years and that this year was the best ever with a total of 39 students.
''They come from six different school districts (Laconia, Gilford, Inter-Lakes, Shaker Regional, Franklin and Winnisquam) and within days of the first class form friendships. It's really fun to see how they work together. A few weeks ago they were all talking about a track meet that was coming up that afternoon where they were going to be competing against one another for their home high schools.''
Schofield says that students who complete two years of plumbing and heating classes at the Huot Center get a leg up in the career path towards becoming a licensed plumber. ''It takes four years of classes and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training to get a license. But they get credit for a year of school, which saves them money and makes it easier to become licensed,'' says Schofield.
And the students who complete the classes are in big demand in the area's job market. Schofield says he regularly gets calls from local plumbing firms looking for new workers that they might consider hiring.
CAPTION: plumbing pix in AA-2014
Matthew Rosette of Meredith works on a drinking fountain, water bottle filling station at Opechee Park in Laconia as fellow Huot Center plumbing and heating student Alex Boucher of Sanbornton tests out the fountain. (Roger Amsden for The Laconia Daily Sun)