Franklin County CareerTech students get lessons in hands-on careers
David H. Martin Excavating has grown a great deal since owner Kirk Martin’s grandfather started the company in 1968.
Then, it was one man with a dump truck and a backhoe moving dirt.
Today DHM has about 200 employees, a fleet of dump trucks and an array of excavation equipment for residential, commercial, agriculture and utility-related work.
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There’s still plenty of heavy equipment, but the company now also relies on technology including computers, drones and GPS, Martin said.
Construction is different from his grandfather’s day and DHM has “a lot of really good young employees who want to work with their hands,” Martin said.
About 220 Franklin County Career and Technology Center students got a first-hand look at what their future can hold when DHM hosted a career day for them at its headquarters off Cumberland Highway north of Chambersburg on Sept. 29.
“Kids can see their don’t have to go to college and accumulate debt,” said Regina Hissong, human resources assistant, who got the idea for the on-site event after attending a high school career fair with two co-workers. She said there are opportunities for employees who want to work hard and learn more to earn good salaries.
Students saw what their futures could hold as their rotated through different stations and heard from DHM employees.
For example, the company has its own CDL training program and 16 or 17 earned a commercial driver’s license in the last year or so, according to fleet manager Richard Phillip.
He had the students guess how much fuel is used in a week and answers ranged from 700 to 10,000 gallons.
“We burn through 15,000 gallons of fuel a week,” he said. At $4 to $5 a gallon, that’s an incredible cost so drivers try to conserve fuel by slowing down and avoiding idling.
Standing between two big shiny trucks, he said they weren’t just cleaned up for career day.
“These are the drivers’ offices,” Phillip said, explaining there is a lot of pride in keeping them clean all the time.
Some students got to feel what it’s like to operate heavy equipment via a wheel loader simulator on loan from Volvo in Shippensburg.
Distant cousins Hunter Gayman and Logan Gayman, both 11th-graders from Chambersburg studying ag mechanics at CareerTech, were among those who concentrated hard behind the controls as other students watched them work.
“It’s fun … I want one myself,” Hunter Gayman said.
Jamar Long, an 11th-grader from Greencastle enrolled in the electrical occupations program at FCCTC, already was familiar some of the jobs at David H. Martin Excavating since he has a cousin and brother-in-law who work there.
Even though it doesn’t say “welding on the door” at DHM, her students learned about jobs, such as equipment repair, said Caitlin O’Donnell. O’Donnell, who went through the FCCTC welding program eight years ago, worked at Burdette Ironworks and Burnside America before returning to teach at CareerTech in November 2021.
The day encompassed about 30% of CareerTech students in about one-third of its programs in the transportation, construction and landscaping fields. It was the first big outing since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Eric Wagaman, building construction trades teacher.
“They’ve really treated us well,” Wagaman said. In addition to lots of career information, the students got T-shirts, safety glasses and notepads, as well as lunch.
For Wagaman, it also was “so cool” to see a former FCCTC student leading one of the sessions.
Zach Dubbs, is a 2014 graduate of Chambersburg Area Senior High School, completed the HVAC program at CareerTech, but always wanted to do excavating or “dirt work.”
“It’s a good opportunity to present real world work to the younger generation,” said Dubbs, who joined DHM five years ago and now is superintendent of the environmental division. “We are an excavating company, but we have so much more to do.”
Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org