CATA 1 of 8 schools nationwide to receive 2022 NCCER Core Toolbox Grant

Principal Susan Patrick, Dr. Mittie Cannon and Mike Burkett (Sara Gladney for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman Area Technology Academy (CATA) is one of eight schools nationwide to be awarded the 2022 NCCER Core Toolbox Grant, an approximately $8,000 grant from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) funded in conjunction with Bechtel Group Foundation and Stanley Black & Decker. The eight winners of the grant were chosen from more than 150 grant applicants.  

CATA Carpentry/Building Construction Instructor Mike Burkett was notified of the grant in the spring and received the “toolbox” in October. More than 40 tools and over 15 types of protective gear were included in the kit. 

Dr. Mittie Cannon of NCCER said, “It makes it really easy having everything all packaged together, so when you receive it, you’re ready to go.” 

The grant was designed to implement the NCCER Core curriculum used by the CATA Carpentry/Building Construction program. All of the tools required to complete each module of NCCER Core and gain the foundational skills needed to begin a career in construction were included.  

Jesus Rodriguez, Madison Evans, Gavin Aker, Chris Miller and Dawson Boyd pose with tools provided through the NCCER Core Toolbox Grant. (Mike Burkett) 

Burkett said this grant is the first the program has ever received. “Eight thousand dollars is not much, but if you don’t have a whole lot of new stuff, it is. We hang on to hand-me-downs. Most of the stuff down here, people have donated to us when their husband passes away that had a little shop.” 

Students receive certification through NCCER once they complete the Carpentry/Building Construction program, which shows that they have received the number of hours required at the foundation level.  

Burkett discussed some of the projects the students have been working on this semester that the new tools will help them complete.  

The 40 students construct baby goat houses, dog houses and sheds. They have made and sold around 50 goat pens and make a profit on sales since the pallets used to construct them are donated by the community.  

The group also plans to construct bridges for the Sportsman Lake Wildflower Garden through a partnership with the Cullman County Master Gardeners. 

Burkett said the students learn business and customer service skills as well as technical skills. “I’m not building birdhouses. I want the kids to learn real-world framing and real-world projects,” he said. “My philosophy is these kids need to sell stuff and make money, interact with the customers, do a cost estimate, do a budget, implement this stuff and then we sell it. I think that’s a good thing for them to learn. I don’t think you get that in an academic classroom.” 

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