WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - There aren’t any ‘Welcome Back’ signs. There’s no open bar. But there is a homecoming this summer at the BOCES on Outer Arsenal Street in Watertown.
A dozen graduates of the school’s electrician program are back in the building, ripping out old wiring and equipment and replacing it with new.
It’s part of a $20 million project to modernize BOCES campuses in Watertown, Glenfield and Lowville, with new electricals, new heating and air conditioning.
“This is an old system, built around 1970,” said Jim Rehley, who teaches at BOCES and who is part of the crew working on the building.
“We’re basically gutting the whole thing - brand new panels, cables, brand new computer wiring throughout the building.”
Rehley works along side students he taught the electrician’s trade to at BOCES, and who went on to apprentice through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union.
Jim couldn’t be happier with what he sees, when he watches his former students.
“We start at 6 o’clock in the morning, and we’re working 10 hour days right now. It takes a level of toughness to be able to do that,” he said.
“It’s nice to see young people who can do that. It makes me feel good and the community should feel good about it.”
One of the graduates working the job: Brian Trickey, who graduated BOCES back in 2009.
“I never really thought I would come back,” he told a reporter while taking a break the other day. “But here I am.”
The work is demanding, physically and mentally - a lot of what they’re doing involves pulling out old electrical cable - it’s heavy - and working around parts of the electrical system that are hot with 480 volts of electricity. You don’t want to make mistakes.
Brian started learning the trade at BOCES. And he learned some other, equally valuable lessons.
“I learned that you’ve gotta have a good attitude. You’re not get anywhere in life without a good attitude. You’ve gotta have that push. You’ve gotta grow up.”
Jeremy Stean is a 2005 graduate of BOCES.
“We’re doing a quality job,” he said. “What we’re doing is meant to last a while.”
Jim Rehley figures ‘a while’ could be another 50 years. Right now, crews are working 10 hour days. When students come back in September, they’ll move to nights and weekends and school holidays - and do more work next summer.
He likened the job - really a lot of jobs under one roof - to putting a puzzle together, and said ‘Not everybody can be an electrician. I think they (former students) really feel good about themselves - ‘I’m doing something that not everyone can do.’”