Faith: Pastor Opens Vocation Center in Kona
AKona pastor has faith in the youth of today and offers a route to discover the trades of trades by creating a vocational training center.
Spencer Baker, pastor of the Big Island Baptist Church and chaplain of the Hawaii County Police Department, dreamed of providing vocational training to young people in western Hawaii.
“About 70% of our high school graduates don’t go to college. We want to introduce them to the trades to show them that there is more than just a job you just stumbled upon. Well-paying jobs, ”he said.
Baker’s ambitious goal is to create a nationally accredited two-year vocational school to teach welding, framing, tiling, masonry and Placoplâtre, among other skills including small business accounting and marketing. To make this dream come true, he will need funding and a suitable location.
Because his efforts are entirely volunteer-driven and dependent on donations, he doesn’t expect reality for another five years. Although he knows that grants are available for such an enterprise, he has neither the time nor the expertise to secure this stream of funding.
“We would love to have a volunteer grantmaker find us funding,” he said.
Baker and his brother, who is instrumental in the program, both have extensive construction experience and want to link to local businesses for skilled workers.
“Construction companies are fully integrated,” he said.
He envisions the program being available to high school juniors and seniors as alternative classes, or full-time for high school graduates.
For now, he runs workshops every six weeks for keiki ages 12-18 at the church campus located on the old Makua Lani School campus in Holualoa. He hopes to spark their interest and imagination and get them out of the house.
Their first effort was to build three henhouses. The finished chicken coops, along with chickens donated by local farmers, went to three lucky families. Next, the keiki were exposed to heavy equipment operations and safety, including learning to tie a load and having the ability to operate excavators.
On Saturday, 40 children, under the supervision of 18 volunteers, made cutting boards from pieces of koa, ohia, pine and other woods.
After a briefing on proper tool use and safety, they split into groups to design, plan, cut, trace, sand, burn wood and oil their creations.
Volunteers helped the children at each station and in the end a family member was sure to receive a gift they will cherish forever. Lunch was then served as the keiki compared their creations.
“It allows them to learn to work with their hands,” Baker said.
He stressed the importance of teaching children how to use power tools and of learning basic skills.
“Every child needs the confidence to solve problems on their own,” he said.
Baker said he was able to secure donated tools, however, each workshop costs the department at least $ 5,000. But it is money that is well worth the investment.
Aaron Nakashima, a retired pipe fitter, was teaching children how to operate a jigsaw at Saturday’s workshop.
“I really like taking care of the children,” he said. “It’s a positive influence on them. I see the children are eager to learn.
It was evident as the young people went from station to station, eagerly awaiting the finished product.
“The projects are very unique,” said Cody Misaki as he sanded his cutting board. “I learned to improve myself using power tools. “
Misaki participated in the three workshops and won the construction of the henhouse.
“Heavy equipment was my favorite, but I love them all,” he said. “I will definitely keep coming.”
The next event will be a butcher’s workshop. Registered keiki will learn how to slaughter and dress a chicken, pig and goat. Participation will be limited to 40.
Volunteers, businesses looking to sponsor the program or provide materials, or those wishing to donate or register for a future workshop can visit konavocational.com.