As demands increase and the average age of workers climbs, the need for well-trained employees in the building trades expands.
Last week we talked about Grays Harbor College’s popular and successful carpentry program. Today, we’re taking a step back to take a look at the training available here on the Harbor for high school students.
Our local expert on that is Lynn Green. Not only is she the director of Career and Technical Education for the Aberdeen School District, she also heads up the Twin Harbors branch of the New Market Skill Center, hosted by that district.
At any given time, nearly three-quarters of the students at Aberdeen High School are enrolled in some sort of technical or career course, she said.
“My job is to help staff make opportunities for students to explore, to discover what it is they really enjoy — and frankly, what they don’t. It’s important that they know there are a lot of options for their education and none is necessarily lesser than another,” she said.
“There are many high-wage, high-demand jobs in these careers that students need to know about,” she added.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Currently, AHS offers a variety of career-oriented jobs such as construction, culinary arts, American Sign Language interpreting, banking and finance, and many others. (Students can earn credit working at the Twin Star Credit Union branch located within the high school.)
The construction program has historically worked closely with the carpentry program at GHC, allowing high school students to earn college credits and enter the GHC carpentry program at a higher level. (The articulation with the college is currently being reviewed for renewal.)
And at AHS’ New Market Skill Center, three-hour programs are offered for students from 10 area school districts: Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Ocosta, Wishkah, North Beach, Lake Quinault, Montesano, Raymond, South Bend and Willapa Valley.
When the Legislature made it possible to expand the Skill Center programs across the state a few years ago, it was a great thing for local students, Green said. Until that time, the closest one — in Tumwater — was not close enough for students in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties. In 2010, Aberdeen became the first branch Skill Center in the state of Washington.
“We’ve really made some strides in our state in the last 10 years for this kind of education,” Green said.
“The state Legislature has done some funding at the middle school level of these types of courses, which is really valuable to have exploration at that age,” she said. “And secondly, adding to the Skill Centers by funding branches and satellites — those two investments have made a critical difference in allowing students to explore options.”
The programs offered through the local New Market Skill Center are automotive technology, criminal justice, cosmetology, professional medical careers, medical assisting, and electrical engineering and refrigeration careers.
While a community needs trained workers in all of those areas, because of our focus here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor in the housing industry, we are going to talk a little about the electrical engineering and refrigeration careers.
The students taking that course may someday become experts in installing and repairing heating and cooling systems, repairing major appliances, becoming linemen or electricians, or even deciding to pursue degrees in engineering or some other construction-oriented field. The demand in the building industry is great for all of those kinds of skilled workers.
In addition, in each of the areas of study, the instructors and Green work to establish connections with other training programs as well as employers, who are eager for new hires with some training and background.
Instructors make a point to have students work on resumes, talk with students about their future plans, and even connect them with potential employers.
Students can leave many of these high school programs with college credit, or even an industry certification.
IT’S A WIN-WIN-WIN
It’s well known that a good sports program or music program keeps some students interested and attending high school who might otherwise drop out. The same thing is true about a strong career and technical program.
“I have students tell me every year that this is why they stay in school,” said Green.
Keeping kids interested and engaged in school, training them to become good employees, letting them explore and experience what a certain field might be like and providing strong new employees into a variety of fields is a win-win-win for the community.
FOR MORE INFO
To learn more about the career and technical training programs offered through Aberdeen High School and the Twin Harbors branch of the New Market Skills Center, contact Lynn Green. She is a knowledgeable, enthusiastic resource for finding out about career and technical training. She can be reached at 360-538-2038 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. This is a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. For questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or buying, call 360-533-7828 or visit 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.