Around 25 Columbia-Montour Area Vocational Technical School students were treated to a hands-on learning experience Tuesday morning at Zartman Construction.

The students received some interactive training on rigging loads on cranes and directing the crane operator on where to move the loads around the parking lot.

“We’ve never done this with (high school) students before,” said Andy Switzer, who is the crane and rigging superintendent at Zartman’s. “They seemed like they were enthusiastic about what was going on.”

Student Dakota Simpson, 15, Danville, who is studying mechatronics, said he was enjoying his morning away from the classroom.

“It’s definitely a good learning experience, I could see myself going into this type of job,” he said.

Building trades student Emilee Wands, 16, Catawissa — who was one of only two girls on the trip — agreed. “I think it's excellent. All students should be able to do this in every school because it’s more like teaching than like doing bookwork all day long.”

As students got to move bigger and bigger objects around, including a large metal storage unit, the interest level also grew.

That’s exactly the kind of spark that Switzer was hoping for with this opportunity.

“It’s not easy getting the crane operators and riggers that want to stay and continue to do that like it used to be," Switzer said. "Years ago, it was a lot different. Guys were in the job because they liked it.”

Building Trades maintenance instructor Eric Turofski echoed that sentiment. “A lot of our tradesmen are retiring and we need skilled labor out in the workforce. We don’t have the facilities to train these students (in this), so Zartman is giving us a great opportunity to come on down here and get these kids exposed to it.”

“There’s a lot of opportunities you can get from this, and we’re just grateful we get the chance to do this," said 16-year-old James Lloyd, an Electrical student. "Hopefully, it can get us somewhere someday.”

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