Wandering the halls of Hiram’s sprawling McGarity Elementary School, a visitor easily could get lost. Kenny Almond, on the other hand, knows exactly where he’s going. The South Paulding High senior strides purposefully around the 87,000-square-foot facility, a picture of confidence in his hard hat and safety glasses.
Working for Bremen-based RK Redding Construction, Kenny spent much of his summer on a large-scale renovation project at the school. The confidence he exhibited on the job extends to his career plans – in that realm, too, he has a firm sense of direction.
“I’m planning to join the Marines after I graduate, then go into construction after retirement,” he says.
Such a career path would be reminiscent of the one taken by Kenny’s father. Kelly Almond spent 10 years in the Corps before launching his own company, Almond Construction, which specialized in residential renovation and repair.
Today Kelly is a construction technology instructor at South Paulding High, where one of his star students is his own son.
“I think many parents are not aware of the value of career tech programs,” says Kelly Almond, who also serves as a SkillsUSA advisor at South Paulding. “It’s a lot more than building birdhouses. It’s all about having career options.”
“Kenny kind of breaks the stereotype of what people think of as the typical construction student,” he continues. “He’s been an A-B student for most of his 11 years in grade school, he’s gone through ROTC, he’s applied himself in the construction program. So he’s got a lot of options as he prepares for a career. I’m very proud of him.”
Likewise, Kenny’s supervisors at RK Redding speak highly of their young charge.
Kenny was one of three South Paulding students working for RK Redding over the summer. Now he’s back in school, but remains employed thanks to a work-release program that allows up to 15 hours a week on the job. With participating contractors receiving incentives such as a discount on workman’s comp insurance, and students gaining valuable experience in the field, it’s a win-win for all parties.
“We’re partnered with Paulding County and Haralson County, and most likely will expand that,” Smith says. “The state is really trying to push skills, because if you go on a job site and start looking at the skilled trades, you’ll see there aren’t a lot of young guys and young ladies in this. So we’re going to have a lack of trained workers in the future if we don’t get our vocational programs back going in the right direction. My prediction is that the skilled trades are going to make good money in the next 20 years, because there’s just such a lack of that right now.”
Kelly Almond is a strong advocate of such programs, too. “It’s one thing to have intellect and knowledge,” says the senior Almond, who was installed in July as president of the Georgia Association of Career and Technical Education. “But the great thing about a program like this is it gives the student good hands-on field experience to complement that.”
Indeed, Kenny’s experience on the McGarity Elementary project was very much hands-on. His work included setting doorframes, concrete framework, fire caulking, wood framing and trimming.
“You can tell him to do something and walk away and you don’t have to worry about it,” says Project Superintendent Matt Bryant. “If he has any questions, he’ll come talk to you. That’s what I like. A lot of people won’t ask questions – they’re either too scared or they think they know everything.”
Of course, growing up under his father’s tutelage has served Kenny well.
“He’d take me to job sites he was on, let me do little odds and ends, take me to skills competitions to see what goes on at those,” he recalls. Today, he says, Kelly is “by far the best construction teacher I’ve ever had.”
Kenny also put those lessons to use in competition this year. He earned a second-place regional finish in carpentry to qualify for the state SkillsUSA Championships last March.
Skills competitions, first-rate instruction, real-world experience – it’s all part of Kenny Almond’s career plan. With that kind of focus, he’s clearly headed straight down a path to success.