Pendulum swinging back to traditional careers

By Ron Bolender

One challenge that all high school career-technical centers face on a national level is convincing high school sophomores and their parents of the advantages of training for a career in construction, manufacturing or among other skilled trades. Research over the years in the career-technical world shows that parents, especially ‘mom’, extend a great deal of influence during the decision making process as it relates to education.

Bolstering the local workforce means schools like the Greene County Career Center is positioned to attract, train and place qualified young adults in positions where they can flourish. Much work goes into making sure this opportunity exists.

All career center programs convene advisory committees to provide input on curriculum and future trends within their industries. This information is crucial to student success as these recommendations reflect these career pathways as they exist today and what they will look like in the future.

For instance, Construction Technology was formerly a carpentry-only program that morphed into a multi-discipline format where students learn the basics of carpentry, plumbing, roofing, drywall installation and even masonry skills. This change came about a few years ago due to employers saying they needed new hires with multiple skill sets. According to Construction Technology instructor Tyler Downing, the message from his committee members is clear – they are in dire need of trained workers.

“Turnover is the biggest challenge right now in construction,” said Downing. “There are more people retiring than there are applicants. The work is there but there are just not enough people qualified or interested in the positions.”

Bob Keller has taught the Electrical Wiring and Motor Controls program at the career center since 1997. His reputation as a great teacher is touted by both union and non-union contractors. His ears ring from the constant cry for more trained workers.

“I’ve started getting calls from contractors who have never contacted us before,” said Keller. “I heard that some are even hiring electricians from other companies on weekends and paying them massive overtime just to handle the amount of work. There is definitely a shortage and we’re doing what we can to help fill the need.”

Eric Gray represents the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 82 and works with the Joint Apprenticeship Training Council. He points out that a journeyman electrician who completes the inside apprenticeship program can expect to make $30.15 per hour. Additionally, contractors are prepared to contribute another $6.80 for health insurance, $7.85 for pension and another $3.20 an hour for an annuity. Greene County Career Center Electrical Wiring and Motor Control students who begin the apprenticeship program as seniors can possibly “top out” as 22 year olds, earning journeyman status!

Gray also notes that some young apprentices struggle with certain requirements of the job. “Soft skills are things like being at work on time, every day, and not using cell phones during working hours,” he said. “They are, in general, not being found in apprentices. I would say the next most important attribute is the willingness to learn and to work hard.”

Greene County Career Center staff make it a point each day to emphasize employability skills that apply to all career fields. From soft skills to dress code to punctuality, these skill sets often determine a graduate’s chance of success in the workplace.

After decades with the emphasis on college degrees being the best option for career preparation, the pendulum is finally swinging back to more tradition career paths like those in construction. Hopefully more students and their families will begin to take advantage that career-technical education opportunities can provide.

By Ron Bolender

Ron Bolender is the public relations representative for the Greene County Career center and guest columnist.

Ron Bolender is the public relations representative for the Greene County Career center and guest columnist.