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Encouraging Volunteerism Among Future Trades Workers

December 21st

By: Craig Peterson, Building Trades Carpentry Instructor at Southwest Technical College in Fennimore

I grew up in the La Crosse, Wisconsin area and became interested in Prairie Style residential architecture in high school. I started college as a history major at UW-La Crosse and later moved to Minneapolis and attended the University of Minnesota. During college, I started a career in construction to pay for school. I got my start working for someone who owned several rental properties, and this allowed me to learn about renovation and all phases of construction. I started building new homes and additions and was self-employed for the next 20 years in Minnesota, working in both residential and commercial construction. Along the way, I worked for and with many wonderful people on a variety of projects. I always found time to attend OSHA classes or take some other industry training. To date, I have attended multiple industry conferences and classes amassing several trade certifications and countless hours of training. Education was always important to my understanding, growth, and success as a carpenter.

When I was growing up, my parents volunteered frequently in the community, giving freely of their time and talents, and encouraging my brother, sister, and I to do the same. Because of my upbringing, from the start of my construction career, I understood the importance of giving back and using my talents to help others. I have participated in several historic preservations of Minneapolis and St. Paul structures in Minnesota. I also regularly participated in Habitat for Humanity and Hammers with a Heart projects. Over the years, builders that I worked for often had church volunteer days that I regularly participated in. I have also volunteered as an assistant high school coach since 2007. Volunteering has always been an important part of my life and is something that I will continue to do in some form for the rest of my life.

We moved to the Madison, Wisconsin area in 2013 to be closer to medical care for our daughter who has complex medical conditions. Our family has benefited greatly from the volunteerism of others at Children’s Wisconsin and Ronald McDonald House in Milwaukee where we often stay for our daughter’s care. Seeing the other side of what volunteers do for others has reminded me of the importance of volunteering and encouraging my students to volunteer.

In 2013 I also started working at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in facilities maintenance. One day I inquired about volunteering at Taliesin and used my vacation time that year to help restore the Tan-y-Deri home along with other small projects. This was a great experience and a lot of fun. The Preservation Crew was great to work with and I really value the time we spent together.

Volunteers from Southwest Tech and Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Employees. Photo by Dale Aspinal, volunteer photographer.

In 2016, I started as an adjunct at Madison College teaching nights, where I continue to teach part-time. Since then, I finished my master’s degree, became an OSHA outreach instructor, and teach full-time as the Building Trades Carpentry instructor at Southwest Technical College in Fennimore. I recently reached out to Taliesin again to see if they would be interested in me bringing my students there for volunteer days. This has been a great experience for the students to get a glimpse into what it is like to work in historic preservation while gaining valuable construction and volunteer experience they can add to their resumes.

Volunteering at Taliesin with my students has allowed me to share what I know and work side-by-side with them and the preservation crew to help preserve a part of history. I have always felt that giving of my time to others, is a way of honoring those that have helped me during my journey in construction by sharing their knowledge, wisdom, and time. These are some of the things I am trying to instill in my students as they venture out in their construction careers. I am grateful for the opportunity that Taliesin Preservation has made to myself and my students.

Student Volunteers at Midway Barn. Photo by Dale Aspinal.