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Learning on the job

A PCC intern gets a boost toward a design/build degree
by: Gail Park, Artisan Renovations Inc. founder Kathryn Radin (right) and Portland Community College student Ann Rinck go over the various types of quartz surfaces that make kitchen and bathroom countertops carefree. Part of PCC’s cooperative education program includes evaulation of a final project.

Earning a degree can be fun: the pursuit stimulating. At age 19, Ann Rinck has many goals, but understanding all aspects of interior design and construction is her most immediate.

Rinck attends Portland Community College. After growing up in the same Rainier home for 18 years, she moved to Beaverton to earn a two-year associate of applied science degree in design/build remodeling, a new degree offered through PCC's Construction Technology Program.

The small-town girl immediately took to woodwork in a shop class during high school.

'We didn't just make a cutting board,' says the woodcrafter who became the instructor's assistant. 'I had a great woodshop. I made a coffee table, cabinet, a whole living room full of furniture.'

Encouraged by her Rainier High woodshop teacher, Rinck enrolled in PCC's cooperative education program. She soon found herself in pursuit of a company that could use an enthusiastic, young intern.

'Hands-on is the best and easiest way to learn. I love the idea of learning about an entire project,' says the soft-spoken student who is preparing to graduate at the end of summer 2007. 'I want to integrate design with actual building. I'm not sure what I will exactly end up doing.'

On Sept. 19, 2006, Rinck joined Artisan Renovations Inc. as an intern.

Working a minimum of 20 hours a week at the residential design/build remodeling company, she is not only catching on to the everyday aspects of a small company, but sharing her ideas with Howard and Kathryn Radin, a husband-and-wife team who founded the Beaverton business.

'Ann watches the entire process,' says Kathryn, whom Rinck assists. 'Ann's ideas are good.'

'Debate is welcome,' says Howard of Hillsboro. 'A contract can be a struggle to tailor . . . the sum of everyone's experience is valuable. The give and take is fun. I have to have a happy client.'

Understanding clients and their wants is where these designers focus their attention. Working a customer's desires into the budget is the second. 'By the time we work through the details and a client learns about the many options, they want more - cherry wood, for example - and the price goes up. We have to cook the design to come up with a workable plan.'

Sometimes plans are carried through phase by phase.

During Rinck's intern hours she often answers the phone. From the caller's questions she can recognize someone who is simply inquisitive compared to someone who should come in and discuss with Kathryn what they want to change in their home and why. Kathryn, a planner with an emphasis on interior finishes, is an expert in color, bathroom updates, tile layout, kitchen design and overall home transformation.

While earning class credit, Rinck's on-the-job training is proving invaluable. According to one of Artisan's clients, it feels good being a part of the support of a young student.

'Kathryn gave Ann credit for her ideas,' she says.

From the onset of a project, Kathryn has asked the eager apprentice to figure out the exact amount of materials necessary for a job and to see the order through to delivery. (For example, drafting up a backsplash and calculating the necessary amount of tiles to do the job.)

'I'm working on learning about all the different materials,' says Rinck.

In countertops alone, there are hundreds of different types. Artisan, a 16-year-old business, works with a number of trusted vendors, including Viatera and CaesarStone.

'I hope to see Ann someday take on a client's project and run with it,' says Kathryn, who studied theater before narrowing her creative juices to home design. 'Ann came in with a solid base and was looking for experience to shorten her learning process.

'This is not a static business,' she adds. 'Something unexpected happens regularly, and Ann has been indispensable in getting things done.'

'Experience is the biggest thing in this industry,' declares Rinck, who has nailed shingles to a rooftop, poured a concrete foundation, framed a floor and worked with Sheetrock and molding on campus. 'There's a wealth of knowledge to gather.

'I would like to go out into the field with the guys and get more involved,' says Rinck. 'I want to help with the installation of cabinets.'

Thus far, Rinck has helped the construction workers with the detail work and finish work, such as filling in nail holes and attaching cabinet knobs and cupboard pulls.

According to Kathryn, there's a shortage of youth entering the home design/build field - at least they are difficult to find.

Rinck says the apprentices are out there, but she believes they get quickly snatched up after graduation. As one of the first students through PCC's new intern program, the young woman looks forward to working full time at Artisan Renovations Inc. near her home.

'It's so awesome at this stage of my life to already be connected to my field.'