Dickson planning staff offer expertise in local TCAT class

By KATE COIL

TML Communications Specialist

The city of Dickson’s Planning and Zoning Department staff are lending their expertise to the next generation of construction and codes officials.


City staffers have partnered with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Dickson’s Building Construction Technology program to give students hands-on experience in carpentry, brick laying, electrical wiring, plumbing, and the codes requirements that go alongside these professions.


The course is a new one for TCAT Dickson offering students formal instruction and hands-on training in carpentry, block and brick laying, as well as residential electrical wiring and plumbing. Students who successfully complete the 12-month program will earn a carpentry diploma, with the option to continue another eight months to earn an additional general construction diploma. The Dickson program is modeled on the first such TCAT construction program offered at TCAT Clarksville.


Jason Pilkinton, director of Dickson Planning and Zoning, said the partnership between the city and TCAT Dickson began when a TCAT instructor reached out to the city, asking for a guest speaker.


“Mark Nichols the instructor asked if I could come to speak to the class, and I absolutely jumped at the chance to go meet him, the students, and learn more about their goals of the class itself,” Pilkinton said. “I went and spent a lot of time speaking to them on building codes, zoning, planning commissions, how the city works, how other cities and towns are different, permitting processes, site inspections, stormwater, and more. I took two examples of our files: a normal regular housing building permit file and a commercial building permit file. I talked through each one and what goes into a project from start to finish.”


After the success of the first visit, it was arranged for Dickson planning officials to host a field trip for TCAT students.


“I took them on a small field trip to a new project: McAllister’s Deli on Highway 46 South,” Pilkinton said. “We walked the site on an actual inspection, and I was able to show them what I had gone over in class, what we look at and how the project comes together. That project is in the framing stage, probably like 70% compete. I had them take notes and observations.”


Pilkinton then returned to the class to answer follow-up questions about the site visits and plans to take students back to watch a final inspection of the site before it opens.
He said the partnership with TCAT Dickson is an extension of education partnerships the department already has with local schools.


“I work with Dickson and Creek Wood High Schools with their work base learning class,” Pilkinton said. “I have had students come here as an intern and shadow my staff on what we do and I show them how the office gnerally runs. I also talk to them about the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals and ask them to visit at least one meeting of both boards.”


Pilkinton said he hopes that the city’s knowledge can help benefit the next generation of construction officials.


“I think a little insight from us at the city will help these students have a little more knowledge of how the system works on the inside,” he said. “I am super excited to see how it helps them in the future. As they learn more and hopefully move into whatever field of work they choose, they will have some knowledge of what to ask for when they go into a community to build. All towns work a little different, but knowing to go into those cities and ask the right questions to the right people I think is a huge advantage to them.”


With trade work in high demand, Pilkinton said he thinks it is important to support TCAT programs.


“There are plenty of opportunities to learn and make a good living here and around Tennessee with all necessary trade work,” he said. “The list is long on how many types of trades are in demand, and anything we can do to spark that interest helps that cause. The local schools do a great job with several trade programs, so this is one more option that maybe a student didn’t think about or even know about.”


Pilkinton said the municipal codes and planning industry can also benefit from students who have been through programs like the ones offered through TCAT.


“On the code side, we have a huge shortage in the code world with inspectors,” he said. “Most are older and getting close to retirement, and the young generation is not getting into the inspection side of construction. More and more young people are needed to learn construction, welding, concrete, all those types of trades. It’s no different with building code inspectors. As we continue to grow, we will need more people to help ensure these projects are built according to codes and approved plans, which is extremely important. Inspectors have a hard job behind the scenes. They get these projects through the planning process, off the ground, and oversee it until its 100% complete and approved.”