by John Rumler

Like most local kids, Jonathon Watson grew up doing farm chores such as bucking hay and putting up fence to keep the livestock contained. As a teenager he worked for Dexter Maust, an energetic man who always had a dozen or so building projects percolating. Whenever he could spare a few hours Jonathon worked for Maust, a generous man who volunteered for Northwest Medical Teams and went to Oaxaca, Mexico, three times to build water systems in poor rural areas.

“Just being around him you learned so much about carpentry, concrete, steel work, plumbing, electrical… he could do it all. Dexter was a doer, a visionary. I was in awe of him and wanted to follow in his footsteps.”

Jonathon took 4 years of math in high school, including calculus, as well as a handful of drafting and woodshop classes. After graduating in 1999, Jonathon lived in Ireland for a year, then returned to Oregon to work as a framer for Bill Bowen Custom Homes. In mid-February, Bowen asked Jonathon to accompany him down to Arizona to build a home in the middle of the desert. “That was a great two or three weeks,” Jonathon recalls. But shortly after that, the work dried up and Jonathon turned to odd jobs. Then he attended Prairie Bible College in Alberta, Canada for two years earning an associates degree in Religious Studies. But he missed swinging a hammer.

After graduating, Jonathon built pole buildings, mostly large garages, barns and agricultural buildings for Baker General Construction. In 18 months, Jonathon estimates he helped build 150 pole buildings–and he learned a lot of time saving tricks–such as cutting a stack of boards at the same time, instead of just cutting one. In 2003, Jonathon entered the AGC apprenticeship program (now administered by NWCOC). He already knew quite a bit about building, but realized he had gaps in his knowledge. “It’s possible to earn a living and move up the ladder on your own,” he says.

“But a good program like this can help you pull your skills together and put you on a clearer career track.” Through the apprenticeship program he landed a job at Triplett Wellman, a 22-year old Woodburnbased firm that specializes in building churches, schools, and commercial buildings. Co-founder Gene Wellman says Jonathon is fitting in just fine. “I’ve had nothing but good reports on his performance and work ethic.” Superintendent Dan Reeve agrees. “Jon is a hard worker who shows up on time, follows directions well, and is a steady worker.”

Jonathon has two more years to complete the 4- year program before earning his journeyman carpenter’s card, but he is more concerned with the journey than the destination. The money in the building trades is fine, he says, but as his mentor Dexter Maust showed him, it isn’t just about the bucks.

It is about making a difference.

“That card will be nice, but it isn’t the end all. I’m learning a lot and thanks to NWCOC, and Tiffany, NWCOC’s Director of Student Services, who was the matchmaker, I’m working with a great company.”

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