The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 49

"I'm more of a hands-on person.
I don't belong at a desk."
-JUSTICE WILFONG

USTICE WILFONG, a 17-year-old
Burton Center for Arts and
Technology student, won third
in the state at the 2018 Skills
USA competition for plumbing.
Skills USA pits students from
technical schools across the
commonwealth and the nation
against eac h other to test
skills learned in 102 different
sectors of 11 categories. Those
categories include everything
from manufacturing and
construction to information
technology and health sciences.
W ilf ong 's instr uctor, Tom
Shelton, knew she could place in
the competition and encouraged
her to enter. But that Wilfong
was a student in the Building
Trades Program at Burton at all
was, and is, amazing.
Every eighth-grader in the
Roanoke County public schools
tours the Burton Center for Arts
and Technology to see what
the school has to offer. With
Wilfong, she knew immediately
she wanted to attend school
there.
"I'm more of a hands-on person,"
she says. "I don't belong at a desk."
Wilfong's grandfather encouraged
her to enter a trade.
"He said no one does it anymore,"
she says, indicating that her grandfather

TheRoanoker.com

believed that scarcity of workers meant a
good living. "And my parents were all for
it."
O t h e r k i d s a re n't s o f o r t u n a t e.
According to a 2019 survey conducted
by the National Center for Construction
Education and Research (NCCER),
70% of parents surveyed said they would
not advise their children to enter the
construction industry rather than go to
college.
Christian Kish, principal of Burton, has
seen parental hesitancy in action. "We'll
see students during our open houses that
are so excited to take their parents into
various programs, not just building trades,"
he says. "Unfortunately, due to their own
personal biases or preconceived notions,
some parents will discourage participation
in the trades."
Jimmy Dollman, principal of Dollman
Construction and father of three, shakes

his head. "I can't understand why anyone
would want to spend four years getting a
bachelor's degree and go into debt to do
it when they can spend the same amount
of time as an apprentice and could make
50% or more annually, and incur no debt."
Dollman's claim may sound unbelievable,
but it 's not. According to NCCER's
2018 Construction Craft Salary Survey
of over 350,000 construction employees
nationwide, average base salaries are more
than $56,784 for masons, $61,139 for
commercial electricians and up to $92,500
for project managers. Compare that with
traditional female occupations and you'll
see that a registered nurse in Virginia
with a bachelor's degree earns an average
salary of $67,990 annually but generally
begins her career with a median debt load
between $40,000 and $54,999. A teacher
beginning her career in Virginia averages
$40,453 annually but carries a debt load of

MARCH/APRIL 2020 49


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The Roanoker - March/April 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - March/April 2020

The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Intro
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover1
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover2
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 3
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 4
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 5
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The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover3
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover4
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