Tradefolo shop

Tyler Philips, then a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, works in the automotive lab at the Tucker Center.

About 15 local businesses have offered to support Council Bluffs Community School District’s TradeWorks Academy with goods or services in response to an appeal made after a presentation about the academy at a breakfast on Oct. 3.

The businesses have offered a variety of forms of assistance, including job-shadowing opportunities, guest instructors, pre-apprenticeships and contributions of equipment or financial support, according to Diane Ostrowski, chief communications officer.

“There were four who offered pre-apprenticeships,” she said.

Even before the breakfast, the Cornhusker Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors certified the shop areas at Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln High Schools, currently being upgraded, as accredited education and training facilities. The trade group has also offered to sponsor a pre-apprenticeship program.

A pre-apprenticeship, like an apprenticeship, includes both academic and hands-on learning, said Theresa Ptacek, education director for the Cornhusker Chapter of ABC.

“Basically, it prepares the student to meet basic qualifications for entering into a full-fledged apprenticeship,” she said.

Among other things, it covers work readiness and math skills, Ptacek said.

ABC officials were impressed by the school district’s plans for the academy, said Anne Klute, president of the chapter.

“When we went and visited with Dr. Vorthmann and Paul Hans, we weren’t exactly sure what they were getting themselves in to; but they showed us their drawings, and we could see they were doing things right,” she said. “They’re doing something unique to anything I’ve seen, and they’re taking the time to invest in their students.”

“You can tell Council Bluffs has got everything heading in the right direction,” Ptacek said. “This is going to be a win-win not only for the students but for future employers.”

There is “absolutely” a need for more skilled construction workers in the area, Klute said.

“Every member I talk to would hire somebody today, if they had the right skills,” she said. “Our industry is desperately in need of skilled laborers.”

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The TradeWorks Academy will offer instruction and hands-on training in automotive and diesel mechanics technology, construction, electrical systems, plumbing and HVAC/refrigeration and fabrication and welding at the two high schools.

Beginning in fall 2019, students will have an opportunity to enroll in academy classes as freshmen and sophomores and, if desired, progress to more advanced training at Iowa Western Community College as juniors and seniors. With the help of graduation coaches, they may be able to complete both a high school diploma and a college certificate, diploma or associate degree by the time they graduate.

The trades academy aligns with Superintendent Vickie Murillo’s goal of having students graduate with “D plus one” — a high school diploma and a college degree or certificate.

Retired physician Dr. Behrouz Rassekh helped with the development of the program and provided financial support.

The academy has been granted certification by the National Center for Construction Education and Research, according to a press release from the district. NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curriculum and assessments with portable credentials.

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