In a good example of building the next generation of marine trades-related professionals, Mark Zeiset, owner of South Central Radar, teaches his son Finn, 6, how to test fuses. (Photo by McKibben Jackinsky for the Homer News)

Homer High’s FOL brings students, businesses together

  • By McKibben Jackinsky
  • Thursday, September 7, 2017 9:18am
  • News

During her senior year at Homer High School, Sunny Puterbaugh lacked a plan for the future.

“I genuinely had no idea,” Puterbaugh said of her confusion.

Thanks to Homer High School’s FOL, Focus on Learning, program, insightful teachers, and the willingness of a local business owner, she found an answer.

Monica Stockburger, a Homer High teacher, told Puterbaugh about FOL sessions being taught by members of the Homer Marine Trades Association. Puterbaugh began attending the 40-minute, once a week sessions and, during a class taught by Mark Zeiset, owner of South Central Radar, her future began taking shape.

“I went up and shook his hand and introduced myself,” said Puterbaugh, her interest in electronics piqued by Zeiset’s presentation.

Stockburger then arranged for Puterbaugh to attend a more in-depth session taught by Zeiset at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College, University of Alaska Anchorage. When that class ended, Puterbaugh asked Zeiset for a job.

“What made me realize how serious she was was that she said she’d be willing to sweep floors, clean the shop or whatever she had to do to get her foot in the door,” said Zeiset.

His first requirement was for Puterbaugh to graduate. Lacking the necessary credits to graduate that year, she switched to Plan B: getting a GED, a task she achieved, with honors, in seven days, according to Stockburger.

“Those were the things that spoke to me that, yeah, she wanted a job,” said Zeiset.

At South Central Radar, Puterbaugh learned basic work skills such as answering the phone and greeting customers. She assisted Zeiset when he installed radios, provided a second pair of hands when wires needed pulling and learned to solder.

“Her biggest skill was learning how to test and troubleshoot VHF marine radios and program radios,” said Zeiset. “And she did sweep floors and take out the trash and all the basic stuff at the shop.”

Similarly, sweeping floors is how Zeiset started his own professional journey. Originally from Pennsylvania, he attended a Bible college for a year after graduating from high school and then landed an entry-level construction job, working in the shop, sweeping floors. A road trip to Alaska and the offer of employment in the construction industry resulted in a move to Anchorage.

“Then I was able to get hired by an electrical outfit. I didn’t have the schooling or the education, but I had several years of construction background so I was able to get hired,” he said of accepting an opportunity that opened the door for valuable training.

While in Anchorage, Zeiset met and married Laura Porter of Homer. During a visit to Homer in the spring of 2012, he saw that South Central Radar was for sale. Before year’s end, the Zeisets had bought the business and, along with their two children, moved to Homer. Zeiset became active with the Homer Marine Trades Association and, in 2015, began teaching FOL students about South Central Radar’s role in Homer’s marine trades.

Eric Engebretsen, general manager of the family-owned Bay Welding, was born and raised in Homer and is part of a commercial fishing family. After high school, he relocated to Arizona, but realized Alaska offered greater earning potential.

“I wanted to move back to Homer and the fact that there was a great career opportunity in a growing Homer business was the reason I moved back,” he said.

Engebretsen enrolled in KBC classes that pertained to his job at Bay Welding and made it possible for him to advance. He has participated in Homer High’s FOL as an employer, teaching about boat building and design. Bay Welding also sponsors the school’s welding class.

“The FOL program is a benefit to exposing students to hands-on ways to get involved in local businesses and opportunities,” Engebretsen said. “More specifically, the welding program is significantly beneficial to our business because we get to see who has natural talent and hire them when the opportunity arises.”

Reba Temple coordinates FOL following Stockburger’s retirement at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. Temple grew up fishing with her dad, has her own Bristol Bay fishing boat, graduated from Homer High in 2008, and has taught math at HHS for four years.

“So many kids hear the ‘go to college’ track, but there are jobs that aren’t necessarily about going to college. Instead, they are about going to a trade school or, like Sunny (Puterbaugh), an apprenticeship-type program,” said Temple.

FOL offers an academic track for students needing help in specific areas and provides opportunities to participate in activities such as soccer, swimming and drawing. A “nuts and bolts” series in the fall brings in local business professionals who offer basic career information.

“The kids like to hear from someone who isn’t a teacher,” said Temple

During the spring FOL sessions, marine trades representatives explain the industry’s many facets and employment opportunities.

“When you go to a classroom and build these relationships and see these kids growing up through school, you begin to identify the ones that have a lot of potential,” said Don Lane, owner and captain of the F/V Predator and former commissioner of the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

Putting the FOL roster together for the current school year, Temple encouraged participation by the local business community.

“There’s a lot of really good kids at the high school that would be great future employees,” she said. “This is a good way to meet and encourage them to get trained.”

Puterbaugh said working at South Central Radar “was my first step toward a career. I made connections and met people. I wasn’t aware of just how big and important Homer is to Alaska’s marine industry.”

For Zeiset, the time spent training Puterbaugh was “worth it. It taught me a lot.”

Would he recommend it to other business owners?

“Definitely,” he said. “And the worst case is you get someone to sweep floors.”

McKibben Jackinsky is a freelance writer who lives in Homer. She can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@gmail.com.

In a good example of building the next generation of marine trades-related professionals, Mark Zeiset, owner of South Central Radar, teaches his son Finn, 6, how to test fuses. )Photo by McKibben Jackinsky for the Homer News)

Sunny Puterbaugh, seated center and wearing a hat, was a Homer High School senior in January 2015 when she attended one of the school’s first FOL, Focus On Learning, sessions. It was taught by Mike Stockburger, standing, of the Homer Marine Trades Association. Puterbaugh was later hired by South Central Radar and trained in radio programming, repair and installation. (Photo provided)

More in News

Dollynda Phelps discusses current issues in the cannabis industry with local business owners on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Cannabis industry meeting raises concerns over Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office

Cannabis cultivators, retailers and consumers squeezed into a small Kenai living room… Continue reading

The wall of the Red Chris tailings pond is a little less than 350 feet, or about the height of a 35-story building. It follows the same design as the Mount Polley tailings dam, which broke in 2014, sending 24 million cubic meters of toxic mine tailings into the Fraser River watershed. It is designed, however, to hold 305 million cubic meters of mine waste — seven times more than Mount Polley. Both mines are owned by Imperial Metals. (Courtesy Photo | Garth Lenz via Salmon State)
Transboundary mine faces $200-million cash crunch

With a strike, falling copper prices and more than $554-million ($723 million… Continue reading

Niko Mogar is shown in a June 2018 booking photo. (Photo provided, Homer Police)
Police arrest Homer area thief on new counts

A man charged last month with burglary and vehicle theft faces new… Continue reading

Homer area residents listen to the Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting at Homer City Hall in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Residents talk Kachemak Selo school at assembly

While no major action was taken at Tuesday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly… Continue reading

Ken Castner III answers a question at a city council and mayoral candidate forum Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018 at Alice’s Champagne Palace in Homer, Alaska. Castner is running for Homer mayor. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Castner running for mayor to promote unity

Although Ken Castner has served on numerous city commissions, committees and task… Continue reading

Homer area school announcements

Homer High School Friday — Homecoming football game against Seward High School… Continue reading

David Lewis, a former member of the Homer City Council, makes his final remarks during his last meeting as a council member Monday, Oct. 9, 2017 in Cowles Council Chambers in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Lewis takes second try at Homer mayor

Veteran Homer City Council member David Lewis will take another run for… Continue reading

Borough elections 2018: What you need to know

In between the August primary election and the November general election, Homer… Continue reading

Supreme Court finds Griswold due process rights violated

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a comment from… Continue reading

Most Read