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Building a future: RF student switches colleges, educational path for happiness

Monday, May 9, 2022

Building a future: RF student switches colleges, educational path for happiness

Image: Building a future: RF student switches colleges, educational path for happiness

Vanessa Pechacek, 20, of Hudson, paints in the basement of a River Falls home that she and seven classmates built in nine months. She is graduating Thursday, May 19, with a technical diploma in residential construction from Chippewa Valley Technical College in River Falls. She landed a job in the field before graduation, and one day she hopes to build her own house.

Two years ago, Vanessa Pechacek had her sights set on a degree in exercise and sports science.

One year ago, she left it all behind to enter Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Residential Construction program in River Falls.

Two weeks ago, Pechacek finished up detail work in a house she helped build from the ground up with seven other CVTC students.

On Thursday, May 19, the 20-year-old is following her passion by receiving her technical diploma in Residential Construction.

It wasn’t easy for Pechacek to change her career plan, but she knows she made the right choice.

“I decided I wanted to do something different, and this is totally different,” she said with a laugh. “I honestly never used any power tools before coming here.”

She didn’t tell her parents about her new venture until after she had applied. She wasn’t 100 percent confident in the move, she said.

But one day, while working at a liquor store, she had an epiphany.

“I was like, ‘What am I waiting for? Why not do this now?’,” she recalled. “I couldn’t be happier.”

Pechacek, who was homeschooled, knew construction was right for her because she didn’t want to sit in a classroom five days a week, and she surely didn’t want to sit in an office for the rest of her career.

“I sat in front of a computer for two years,” she said. “I was miserable. I just wanted to get out.”

Justin Borgwardt, River Falls Residential Construction instructor, said learning the trades at CVTC is appealing to people who are interested in a set of skills they can use after a year or two. They pay a reasonable price for their education and many students have jobs before they graduate.

Students spend 20 hours a week at the project site constructing a home. The other time is spent in the classroom reinforcing concepts used at the project site.

Students learn blueprint reading, estimating, framing and construction safety, but they also learn soft skills like communication, accountability, integrity and responsibility.

Borgwardt said Pechacek is going to thrive in the profession.

“She is very detail-oriented … she’s very particular and does extremely well in the classroom and out here,” he said on the job site. “I have no doubt she will be successful.”

Like other students she’s working alongside, Pechacek landed a job before graduation. She has accepted a position with Ross and Associates – a commercial construction company in western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota.

Pechacek said one thing that made her hesitate was the thought of not knowing enough about the skill of building before she would graduate, but the past nine months have put her fears to rest.

“I was afraid I was going to get the diploma and not actually know what I was doing – like maybe I would just be going through the motions and not actually have the skills,” she said. “But since working on this house, that fear is no longer there.”

Pechacek, from Hudson, will start out at the bottom but will transition into the apprenticeship program for four years and then to a journeyman. She wants to design and build houses. Maybe even her own house. Now she has the skills to make that dream come true.

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