An empty field in Middlesex turned into a kind of sand box where eager high school kids could get behind the wheel of some big rigs. From excavators to bucket trucks, skid steers and cranes, around 400 students from the state's eight tech ed centers got to dig holes and push some serious dirt around.
"Today is about the tech center students really understanding and experiencing what they want to pursue in their future," said Cathy Lamberton of the Associated General Contractors of Vermont.
More than 50 volunteers made the day possible, from linemen to dealers that donated time and valuable equipment.
"You have to like what you do to do it. When the phone rings at 2 in the morning and it's 10 below," said Jason Smith, a lineman for the Washington Electric Co-op.
"It's a little nerve-wracking, but giving them correct instruction of proper operation is key to show them. And especially showing them seat belts. They keep jumping in the machine and not wearing a seat belt. And it's very, very important to put a seat belt on," said Jared Hosefros of Wood's CRW Corp.
Most of the students agreed it was a day well spent.
"You get to be, you know, outside. If I was to work in an office, it's not very fun, you know," said Sam Shorey, a 10th-grader at BFA.
"What we found out is once you get the bucket above your head, it's really hard to tell where you are," said Chad Donna, an 11th-grader from Enosburgh.
"I think it's a good field for everybody to go in because everyone's in need of drivers for this equipment," said Travis Ryea, an 11th-grader from Richford.
"There's a lot of different buttons to push and levers to pull. What little I did wasn't too complicated," said Ryan Taylor, a 12-grader from Rutland.
"Usually the girls do better than the guys because we have more patience," said Kalista Howard, a 10th-grader at Green Mountain Tech and Career Center. "But the boys just go in and tear it up."
And at a time when college is often pushed as the next step, organizers say for some, it's important to consider all the options.
"College isn't the answer for all students anyway. People go into the tech centers because they want hands-on experience. We need different industries staffed and kids in the tech centers are the ones that really have the expertise to do that," Lamberton said.
Vermont tech students getting some valuable time in the driver's seat.
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