T.J. Baggett, Class of 1996
It’s been 20 years since TJ Baggett left the Carpentry program at Fairfield Career Center, but the fond memories of his experience remain close to his heart.
“It gave me the skillset and work ethic needed to enter the carpentry field as a productive member of the workforce, “ said the Corna-Kokosing Construction Company superintendent. “Through the school-to-work program, FCC also gave me the opportunity to enter directly into commercial construction, which put my career on a fast track to becoming the superintendent I am today.”
Baggett started working at Corna-Kokosing construction in 1996 after his junior year and has been there ever since. He began first as an apprentice, later as a foreman and now as superintendent. His day starts at 4:30 a.m. when he wakes up at his home in Ashville and arrives on the job site by 6:00 a.m.
Even though the hours are tough, Baggett said there was never any question as to what he wanted for a career. He remembers first talking to instructor Bob Jones at a middle school career fair. “Bob said, ‘we offer carpentry’ and I was immediately taken. I didn’t even hear the rest of what he had to say. It was what I wanted to do, “said Baggett.
His passion for carpentry and construction began early. Baggett said he used to round up scrap lumber from house sites to build his own bike ramps. “I dug out my dad’s tools and I would ride around with a two-wheel dolly behind my bike collecting lumber and go home and just build things.”
These days, Baggett oversees multi-million dollar projects. He credits his own work ethic and the support and guidance he got at Fairfield Career Center for much of his success. “What I would tell everyone is that it is limitless as to what you can do when you’re motivated and passionate about something. That’s what I really appreciate about attending Fairfield is that I wouldn’t have had all of those opportunities otherwise.”
Baggett competed on the state and national levels of VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America), now known as SkillsUSA. He won first place at nationals and said it was one of the proudest moments of his life. To this day, he keeps a framed quote on his desk that Mr. Jones gave him back in 1996. It’s a photo of a drop in a puddle and says “Attitude: a little thing makes a big difference.” “I was 17 years old and I didn’t even think about the ripple effect I could have on people. I’ve just kept it where I could see it and have tried to lead by example ever since. When I see it, I think about Bob and everything the school has done for me.”
Baggett said he’s happiest when he’s covered in sawdust and still loves to take hammer to nail in his backyard. He recently built a clubhouse for his 10-year-old daughter that he said the neighbors have dubbed “the mother-in-law suite.” He’s a member of the Fairfield Construction program’s business advisory board and the Eastland-Fairfield Hall of Fame.