Council Bluffs Community School District officials presented their vision for a high school trades academy to business and industry leaders at a breakfast Wednesday at the Council Bluffs Country Club and made an appeal for partners and support.
The TradeWorks Academy, as it will be called, will offer instruction and hands-on activities in automotive and diesel mechanics technology, construction, electrical systems, plumbing and HVAC/refrigeration and fabrication and welding at Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln High Schools.
The career and technical areas at the two high schools are currently being renovated to accommodate academy needs. The first cohort will start in fall 2019.
“Our local workforce needs (job candidates in) skilled trades. There are going to be, in the next two years, over 5,000 jobs available … and we have to help fill that gap for our community,” said Corey Vorthmann, chief academic officer, referring to information from a recent survey by the Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce. Some 68 percent of those workers won’t need a four-year college degree, he said.
“For every five trade jobs available, only one person is skilled enough to take that job,” Vorthmann said.
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.
These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s registry system that allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires.
“The NCCER certification is going to be game changing,” said Paul Hans, coordinator of career and technical education.
Locally, the Associated Builders & Contractors, Cornhusker Chapter served as the Council Bluffs Community School District’s Accredited Training sponsor. As a result of this partnership, the TradeWorks Academy is now recognized as an official training program. The chapter has offered to sponsor a pre-apprenticeship program designed to prepare students from T.J. and A.L. to enter a Registered Apprenticeship program after graduation.
Superintendent Vickie Murillo thanked retired physician Dr. Behrouz Rassekh, who helped with the development of the program and provided financial support.
The trades academy aligns with her goal of having students graduate with “D plus one” — a high school diploma and a college degree or certificate.
“We believe in this so much that the school district is going to open up this program to high school students in other school districts,” said Chris LaFerla, executive director of the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation and vice president of the Council Bluffs school board.
“The partnership opportunities with this are really critical to the program,” he said.
LaFerla invited business leaders to fill out cards on the tables and offer curriculum design assistance, participation on an advisory board, job shadowing opportunities, guest instructors, pre-apprenticeship opportunities and financial support.
Joe Hotz, store manager at cfm Distributors, said there is definitely a demand for workers in the HVAC industry, his clients in the business have told him.
“The HVAC industry is awesome to get in to,” he said. “Quite a few guys are going to be retiring in the next 10 years.”
“We’ve seen, since the recession in 2008, a lot of people have left the trades, and now there’s a need,” said Jared Olson of HGM Associates. “So we absolutely embrace the idea of getting more kids into the trades.”
As materials about the academy were distributed to classrooms in the two high schools, students started to show interest, Hans said.
“The kids are starting to ask questions,” he said.