Northlands students craft award-winning design

VERGENNES — U.S. Department of Labor employees who receive one of the 2013 Secretary of Labor’s Honor Awards may have students from the Northlands Job Corps in Vergennes to thank for the award. Job Corps students and instructors from Northlands in Vergennes and from another Job Corps in Utah used recycling and sustainability in creating unique, handcrafted awards honoring the service and dedication of the federal DOL employees.
Annual Honor Awards represent the highest level of recognition used to acknowledge employees whose work and accomplishments achieved an outstanding level and demonstrated excellence. This year’s theme is “Then, Now, Next,” symbolizing the 100 years that the U.S. Department of Labor has promoted the welfare of working Americans.
Job Corps centers competed to design this year’s award. The winning design is an aluminum medallion hung from a metal “C” hook embedded into a wooden base with a matching centennial faceplate affixed.
In January, the DOL sent out a notice to all 125 Job Corps centers that they were conducting a contest that would include production of a prototype of an award, and then if the prototype was the chosen winner, production of more than 125 individually crafted awards to be handed out to DOL employees who demonstrated excellence. Their criteria seemed simple enough: Showcase the artistic talents and technical craftsmanship of the center’s students; make it no more than 1-foot square; use primarily wood and/or metal as well as salvaged, recycled or eco-friendly material; and incorporate the DOL 100th anniversary theme of “Then, Now, Next.”
By Feb. 14, Northlands’ prototype was submitted to the regional DOL office in Boston for the first round of competition. Four career technical training area students had taken part in the fabrication of the prototype — welding with instructors Tony Bosnich of New Haven and Jim Blanchard of Essex Junction; carpentry with instructor Todd Lossmann of Bristol; urban forestry with instructors Jeremy Riemersma of Port Henry, N.Y., and Dave Gross of Vergennes; and collision repair with instructor Sid Messick of Milton.
Under the direction of welding instructor Blanchard, a Navy veteran, students from four Career Technical Training Programs — welding, carpentry, urban forestry and auto collision — decided to use recycled products from the past, present and the future (Then, Now, Next) for their creation.
Northlands Urban Forestry students, led by arborist instructors Jeremy Riemersma and David Gross and carpentry instructor Todd Lossman, removed several sustainably harvested brown maple trees from the Rokeby Museum property in Ferrisburgh. Students and instructors worked with cutting the lumber into wooden bases, which were sanded and finished.
Then students under the direction of welding instructor Tony Bosnich cut recycled pipe and used a plasma cutter and a gas tungsten arc welding process to produce the hook from which a medallion would be hung. After the assembly of the pieces, auto body instructor Sidney Messick and his students prepared the surfaces and used a spray paint coating for the finished product.
Past: harvested wood and reclaimed pipe
Present: welding, cutting and painting utilizing materials available
Future: developing skills for future craftsmen
Northland Job Corps students Dylan Vose, Victoria Finley, Omar Hutchinson, Timothy Hamlin, Marquis Benjamin, Samantha Burgess, Muhamud Jeilani, Daniel Quick, Jason Hubbard and Sage Gratton participated.
Within a week, Center Director Dennis Lamberd was notified that Northlands had won the first round of regional competition against 20 other centers in the New England/New York region. Both the instructors and students were very excited about this regional honor but never expected that Northlands prototype would be announced as the national winner.
On May 9, Northlands students participated in a live webcast of the DOL awards ceremony, held in Washington, D.C., where they were recognized for their award fabrication craftsmanship. Instructor Jim Blanchard spoke during the ceremony as he praised the students’ efforts and hard work. And after the ceremony? Back to work on the 75 more awards, which were given out to the regional DOL recipients this month.
“Students learned how to work within a timeline and maintain the initial high quality of workmanship produced for the prototype,” said instructor Bosnich. “This skill is a valuable lesson which the students can carry over to any post Job Corps employer.” 

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