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Area employer and local graduate discuss importance of on-the-job learning

February 25, 2020 | Filed in HFM Career & Technical Education, HFM Top Stories

A leading supplier of paving materials and construction services recently told students at the HFM Career and Technical Center that an employee’s willingness and ability to learn while on the job can be the key to a successful career.

Two people stand next to each other talking

Brandon Ratajczak, a heavy equipment operator and mechanic at Callanan, speaks with an Auto Technology student from Wells about career possibilities. Ratajczak is a 2011 Amsterdam High School graduate who completed the Environmental Conservation program at HFM.

Callanan Industries which has 15 distribution locations in New York, including the quarry on Route 5S in Pattersonville visited the Career and Technical Center Monday, Feb. 24 to explain their summer internship program and other employment opportunities with the company. Callanan representatives spoke with students in the Auto Technology, Construction Technology, Environmental Conservation, and Skilled Trades: Electrical, HVAC and Plumbing programs. 

The Callanan representatives included Brandon Ratajczak, a 2011 Amsterdam High School graduate who completed the Environmental Conservation program at HFM. Environmental Conservation is a two-year program stressing career preparation in forestry and lumber production, heavy equipment operation and renewable resources. After high school, Ratajczak became a mechanic at Hudson River Tractor before becoming a heavy equipment operator and mechanic at Callanan. 

“Being willing to learn is probably the biggest thing,” Ratajczak said while discussing what it takes to be successful in the workforce. 

Zach Clemente, the assistant quarry manager at Pattersonville, explained to students what’s involved in a mining operation including drilling and blasting, loading and hauling and crushing and screening. An operation like Callanan needs mechanics, welders, electricians, maintenance workers, quality control inspectors as well as employees to work in marketing and management.

Clemente said each day is different working at Callanan and employees who want to learn and develop diverse skills are valued. In addition to having a willingness to learn, teamwork and communication skills are also important for on-the-job success, he said.  

Callanan Human Resources Manager April Clas said they are interested in meeting with HFM students looking for paid internships. She said it’s not uncommon for the company to offer full-time jobs to successful interns. Students must be 18 years or older to obtain a Callanan internship. Students can apply online at  

A speaker points to a Powerpoint presentation displayed on a screen as student sit at a table listening.

Zach Clemente, an assistant quarry manager for Callanan Industries, speaks with students at the HFM Career and Technical Center.