Program prepares students for workforce
A program at Thomasville High School is giving students a way to make a living right after graduation.
THS currently offers a masonry and a carpentry class on campus where students who aren't sure about going to college or joining the military can get hands-on experiences working in professions that are in need of fresh, young faces. Through a partnership with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and the Department of Public Instruction, THS links students who successfully complete the program to employers from across the country.
"Everything they do in here is teaching them to be industry-ready as soon as they finish the class," said Dwight Brodar, a certified masonry and carpentry instructor at THS since 2007. "it's just a great opportunity for them to learn a trade. Anyone in the industry can pull up their information and see everything they've accomplished, We are teaching them 21st Century skills to get them ready to be globally competitive in the workforce."
NCCER, an education foundation created to address a skilled workforce shortage, develops standardized criteria for more than 60 craft areas that is supported by DPI. Students taking advanced masonry or carpentry must pass numerous safety and performance tests, both through the program and on campus. Students who pass the program earn certificates of completion and are inserted into a national register that can be seen by employers nationwide.
"They can go right to work if they choose to in the industry," Brodar said. "They can go anywhere as a journeyman and get a job right off the bat making good money. It's a great opportunity to work with someone and get experience and maybe one day go into business for themselves."
Students in the program have access to trade tools and equipment, and refine their craft on campus with under Brodar's guidance. During the school year, students have the opportunity to apply their new skill set in the field through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Thomasville. Masonry and carpentry students play a key role in building a house someone in their community will move into.
"It's a great experience that helps everybody," said Julian Paez, a THS senior who has been in the program for almost three years. "I like Habitat for Humanity because it's a great program that benefits families. It helps us for the future and helps a family move into a new home. This is something you can rely on once you graduate. These days it's really hard to find a job, so people — even people who graduate from college — are struggling to get a job. Why not specialize in a lot of things in case something doesn't work out."
In addition to the program, students can join SkillsUSA, an organization that brings educators and trade associations together to address a need for a globally competitive, educated and skilled workforce. SkillsUSA helps develop communication skills, teamwork and time management through state and nationwide competitions and community service projects. Members have access to employment resources, scholarships and industry certifications.
"The construction trade is a dying trade so to speak," Brodar said. "The average construction worker is 48 years old. Students are not going into the trade, and with the age of technology, students are wanting to do something else other than physical work. If they're willing to go out and work hard and learn a trade, it's very beneficial work. They can go out and make more money than students with college degrees."
THS Senior Danny Cox wants to pursue architecture as a career and would like to one day start his own business.
"I think the program is pretty great," said Cox. "It teaches you how to go out and make money. Not everybody can say they lay brick. It's fun competing against people who do it for a living."
Brodar said SkillsUSA is student-led, student-run and relies on fundraising effort organized by students. Members learn ways to make money to support the program, conduct business meetings and are involved in community service projects.
For more information, visit skillsusa.org.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.