Williamsport teacher builds connections

My PSEA Login



Williamsport teacher builds connections

Randy Williamson doesn’t view himself as an amazing teacher, but Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, his students, and the community beg to differ.

Williamson, a high school construction trades teacher in the Williamsport Area School District, Lycoming County, was one of 10 national finalists for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

Although he did not win the $100,000 top prize, being a finalist brought a $30,000 award – $20,000 of which goes to the school.

Williamson sends his share of students to higher education, but he is a firm believer that not every student needs to go to college. His connections in the construction industry are so strong, and the students he produces so qualified, that many of his kids have jobs lined up before they even graduate from high school.

The only reason Williamson himself went to college was because his father demanded it before bringing him into the family construction business. And after he graduated with a teaching degree from Bloomsburg University in 1994, the family business is directly where he went for 10 years.

But he decided to take a teaching opportunity at the Lycoming Career and Tech Center in Hughesville, then went to Williamsport in 2007, and since then has helped build a highly successful two-pronged construction trades program that prepares students to go directly into the workforce, or further their education at two- and four-year trade schools and colleges.

“One of the reasons I went into teaching is that I saw the need for skilled labor in the workforce,’’ Williamson said. “My experience in the contracting business allows me to make connections between employers looking for help and kids interested in employment in the trades.’’

Maintaining those connections takes a lot of volunteer work. He is president of the West Branch Susquehanna Builders Association and regularly attends builders shows. He is also well-connected to instructors at the nearby Pennsylvania College of Technology.

A big break for Williamsport’s construction trades program came in 2012 when the Pennsylvania Builders Association endorsed it.

“What is awesome about that is that every contractor in the state knows that association,’’ he said, adding that the endorsement led to opportunities to compete in the International Business Show, which is held annually in either Las Vegas or Orlando.

Williamsport students received the Rookie of the Year Award and took sixth place in the residential construction trades competition during their first year in 2014, and they’ve won first-place awards in 2015 and 2016.

About 80,000 people, including top companies and vendors, attend the show, making it another showcase for students wanting careers in the trades.

“Everybody says I do a great job and am a great teacher,’’ Williamson said. “I don’t view myself as an amazing teacher. I think I do a good job at making connections between industry and the school program. What makes a program tick is the instruction, working with industry, and having industry take an interest. It’s a two-way street.’’