DES MOINES, Iowa — High school for some students can feel like working in a factory. They do the same thing, over and over again, until it’s time to punch out. For a lot of them, the hardest part isn’t the grind — it’s trying to figure out what’s next.
For a growing number of students with Des Moines Public Schools college isn’t the best option and the district is working to accommodate them.
“It feels great. I used to be so worried about, ‘Hey, what am I going to do when I graduate?’ But now I have something waiting for me, something I actually enjoy doing,” said Jorge Escobedo, senior at Central Campus.
Jorge is lucky, he has a plan. He’s already working part time for a welder’s shop and when he graduates he has a spot in the Iowa Ironworkers Union. He knows none of this would have been possible, if it wasn’t for the shop welding classes he took at Central Campus.
“That is why I get here as early as I could every day,” said Escobedo.
Jorge is the model for what the district is trying to replicate when they expand the Skilled Trades Program next year. They hope to enroll 150 students in the program.
“The Skilled Trades Academy program is going to give students the opportunity to experience skills in all the different trades. Then take those skills to a second and third year to build those skills in a trade they like best,” says Grethen Watznauer, Central Campus.
If students complete all three years of the program they will be ready to enter the construction workforce with a leg up and local employers cannot wait to hire these kids.
“The labor shortages we are experiencing are unprecedented.” said Rachel Flint, vice president of Hubbell Homes.
The unemployment right now for construction jobs is 2% and that about half of what the national average is. So not only are these kids learning valuable trades, they are going to walk into great paying high demand jobs.
“Unbelievable amounts of money in construction. Take for example we have a person that installs installation, he makes about $80,000 a year,” says Flint.