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Build Academy participant begins career in the trades

Caden Lincicum was hired as a carpenter apprentice after completing hands-on construction training at Operation Fresh Start.

During his time at Operation Fresh Start, Caden Lincicum has gained skills in both residential and commercial construction. He was involved in the entire process of building two homes in Sun Prairie – from pouring the cement basement to framing, roofing, drywall and finish carpentry.

When one of those projects (an affordable home on Pleasant Street) was completed, Caden had reached a turning point. He started at OFS as a reserved, quiet guy who wasn’t sure what he wanted to pursue as a career. Over the year it took to build this home, he realized he enjoyed carpentry and even developed the confidence to speak at the open house ceremony.

“Back when there was no floor, it was just concrete, I helped lay the floor beams and helped with the plywood,” Caden said to a crowd of OFS staff, participants and news media. “I remember thinking, ‘this is actually a house.’ That’s when it really set in – that I’m working on this house and learning all these skills – and I’m extremely proud of the work I do. That’s when it set in that I want to do carpentry, and I was just really happy.”

During his first year at OFS in the Legacy Program, Caden was unsure he’d be able to commit to getting up every day and going to work. But his construction supervisor Miles Hegg made that process much easier.

“Miles was super nice. So every day when I got to work, I could look forward to not struggling, because I would ask him questions and he would answer them,” says Caden. “All of the supervisors I’ve had now at OFS – they were very open and never put me down.”

Caden earned his high school diploma through the Legacy program in July 2021. He wanted to gain additional hands-on construction training to jumpstart his career in the trades, so he joined the advanced-level OFS Build Academy.

Gaining Commercial Construction Skills

Recently through Build Academy, Caden spent 90 days training side-by-side one of Findorff’s journeyman carpenters on the One City Schools K-12 charter school in Monona. He has gained a list of certifications through Build Academy, including: OSHA 10 safety, high lift operator, CPR/First Aid, and his pre-apprenticeship certification. He also earned his driver’s license and passed his apprenticeship test for the carpenter’s union.

“The growth he’s gone through in this program is exactly what we want,” says Steve Gardner, OFS Build Academy Manager. “Caden improved his attitude, attendance and communication skills during this program. He’s a reliable young adult.”

“It has been a pleasure to help Caden grow as a carpenter, as well as bearing witness to his transformation from a quiet, self-doubting young man into a skilled, prideful adult,” says Build Academy Supervisor Tim Yost.

Professional and Personal Development

For Caden, he’s most proud of the confidence he gained at OFS. “I was so introverted when I first came here, like I didn’t really talk to anyone,” says Caden. “But working with a crew was really fun and everyone was way nicer than I expected. The supervisors really cared.”

Aside from construction work, Caden enjoyed other opportunities he had at OFS, like learning how to maintain natural areas and remove invasive species. Another highlight was getting the opportunity to meet Gov. Evers at a December 2021 press conference announcing OFS would receive a $3.3 million Workforce Innovation Grant. This funding made the Build Academy program possible.

In June 2022, Caden was hired as a carpenter apprentice with JP Cullen. He’s excited about this career path because of the good pay and the satisfaction he gets from the construction process. “I like building things and seeing everything come together – like the physical progress,” says Caden. “And the fact that you’re building it for someone else is really cool, too.”

In September 2022, Caden received the OFS Academy Participant of the Year Award, recognizing a participant who has shown incredible growth, leadership and dedication to their path to self-sufficiency.


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