Students in the building trades class at Portage Lakes Career Center (PLCC) spent a good chunk of the past school year using their power tools and talents to preserve history and extend the capabilities of the school's aviation class.

The building trades class spent many hours from December to the end of school at MAPS Air Museum reinventing the upstairs of the hangar museum. The renovation allows for more exhibits and classroom space for the growing PLCC aviation class.

While working, the students in the building trades class was surrounded by the history of aviation, many uniforms, pictures and stories of the men and women that have protected our skies and those who have invented the means to do so.

Instructors for the class are Adam Irwin and Wayne Harrison.

Class instructor Adam Irwin said students sealed off banks of windows with metal studs, insulated, hung drywall and painted.

"It is real world stuff," said Irwin. "This is exactly what they would be doing if they were working for a commercial contractor."

The students took one room from an unusable area "and turned it into a very usable area," said Irwin.

That room, known as the Ohio Military display room, will house the articles donated to MAPS from a military museum that closed in Massillon.

Irwin said students are taught how to do a  project and they just take off and run with it.

"We are in a career field where what you do, you get to see forever," he said. "It is always out there."

Gage Sigelmier, a junior from Green, said he likes what he learned in the class.

"It carries on throughout your whole life. If you have a problem with your own house you learn how to fix it in this class," he said. "You can build your own house from the ground up. Seeing the end product is so nice. You can come back here in 20 years and say 'I did that.' "

Jacob Davidson, a junior from Springfield, said he would like to build houses for people one day and this project was a great experience.

"If I make them good enough, the houses will be there for many years." he said.

There was plenty to do on the MAPS project, giving everybody a hands-on experience. The class is set up to give students knowledge of plumbing, electrical, carpentry and masonry, and a chance to explore what they like best.

"We have kids that are just interested in this kind of work and we are getting them prepared," Irwin said. "We get calls every day looking for kids that want to do this work; it is a dying field. The workforce performing this kind of work is aging and retiring and there are not many to take their places. The students that go into the union, within four years are making approximately $60,000 a year and benefits. It is a good career path, making a good living.

"Some of the students coming into the class can't read a tape measure. We are taking them from step zero to performing this kind of work, getting all the experience of the tools, layout and more. The program also sets students up for college to study programs like construction management, civil engineering and architecture. Anything in those fields, they will have a leg up on anybody in that program because they will see and work with materials that they will work with on paper, such as an architect."

Chase Guello a junior from Green, said he most enjoys seeing the final product of what he builds. He plans to run his dads excavation company and thought the class would be a good start. He said learning the basics of things such as using tools and laser levels will help him in business if he has to build something. Guello added that he would like to go on to school to learn about the business side of the career.

Two of the students are looking toward a military career.

Bryan Beard, a junior from Green, said he likes to drywall and wants to build houses. But, first, he plans to try out for the Navy Seals. Jacob Dever, a junior from Springfield, said the program teaches him the "Jack of all trades." He plans to join the military and once he retirees, would like to do building trades.

Irwin said the kids loved the opportunity to come to MAPS and work.

"Just teaching the kids how work is a step in itself," he said. "Learning that they are not to be looking at their cell phone and texting. You are here to work and get a job done."

The class renovated the entire second floor where there will be a new museum and classrooms.

"Our kids did all of that work," PLCC Superintendent Ben Moore said. "It is beautiful."