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Every year, like clockwork, the carpentry students at Hawaiʻi Community College in Hilo, are hard at work, in and out of the classroom.

“We get the hands-on and class assignments. We learn inside the class and then come outside and do it step by step,” said carpentry student Kai Respicio.

“High school you learn the basics, but over here you learn everything from foundation to finish,” agreed fellow carpentry student Jacob Ramos.

The two-year program has a maximum of 16 students per year who can earn either a certificate of achievement, or an associate degree if they take the required core classes. Each year, the class builds a family home on Hawaiian Homelands. So far, the students in the college’s model home project have constructed 45 homes.

“They have the hands-on experience of building a model home,” said carpentry professor Gene Harada. “All the way from the foundation to actually doing the framing, the roof applications, sidings and also the fabrication of the custom built cabinets for each house.”

“I think it is very important,” said Respicio. “You get the experience before you go outside and you know like half the stuff that you do.”

Students from the college’s drafting, electrical, diesel and agriculture programs also gain valuable real world experience. Experience that immediately pays off for the carpentry students. If they are accepted into the carpenter’s union, they are automatically credited with a thousand work hours and four hundred classroom hours.

“Hope this is going to lead me, to the future, to be one contractor,” said Ramos. “That’s my ultimate goal.”

The Hawaiʻi Community College carpentry program helped Harada achieve his goals. He graduated from the program in 1975.

“Actually, when I was here, I did help build number 11 house for the program,” said Harada. “Based on what I went through and what I did in the industry, it’s a great skill to learn, especially going into industry with the knowledge that you obtained from this program.”

“I love this program,” said Ramos. “I like stay here a couple more years if can.”

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