Building Trades Working To Recruit High School Students

With competition for workers high, contractors are following the lead of manufacturers and trying to get high schoolers interested in a possible career in the building trades.

During the most recent board meeting of the Jamestown Local Development Corporation, John Healy and Craig Williams of Southern Tier Builders Exchange updated JLDC members on a new training program.

Southern Tier Builders Exchange was a recipient of the city’s construction, trade, workforce development grant and has developed a pre-apprenticeship training program. The program teaches a variety of trades including carpentry, masonry and iron working, and prepares them to take on an apprenticeship in one of those trades.

“What we’re telling students as we meet them is that people are interested in opportunities that are out there,” Healy said. “There’s good pay, high demand and potential pride that comes from building a building and then driving down the streets and being a part of that satisfaction of building a skill and growing with that.”

The main priority when starting the training program is reaching high school students at a young age, and some college graduates to give them the opportunity to get into trades at a young age.

“We want to give them the opportunity to get into the trades and create a pathway for those who may have barriers getting into an apprenticeship, and for somebody who wants to work with their hands and doesn’t know how,” Healy said.

The program also gives younger people the ability to go into another pathway than the four year route of college or higher education. It also helps sustain the workforce. The exchange is working with the National Center of Construction Education Research, being certified by them to buy their curriculum.

“With that certification we can now partner with other organizations in Jamestown and around Chautauqua County to work under us with accreditations so they don’t have to go through the credit organization,” Healy said. “So, we can partner with them and they can go through a training with us to be a part of the NCCR.”

The training is all online and gives transferable credits to take anywhere. There were forty or fifty training to choose from but the Exchange chose the entry level curriculum to use. Some also teach life skills.

The program started in Jamestown High School in January. Students are taught Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays under two instructors. There are currently two seniors and eight juniors in the class. Healy added that there have been field trips to different trade places as well.

“It’s been a really good start between Jamestown High School, the Innovation Center and the Builders Exchange,” Healy said.

Students also do hands-on projects such as demoing a wall at the high school, and pouring concrete. Other projects lined up include building a wall for the fire department and building some sheds. Long term, the Exchange would like the program to be able to build small houses.

The exchange is partnering with the Sheriff’s Department to provide similar training for incarcerated people, so that when they come out they have somewhere to go. They’d also like to involve even younger students like freshmen and sophomores later on.

The program is working with some Jamestown Community College students in their own classes. A few more instructors are lined up as well.

“This just shows high school kids, college kids that there are more pathways for them once they go through these programs,” Healy said.


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