The Return of Shop Class

Roswell High School Students learning masonry and carpentry

Roswell High School Students learning masonry and carpentryA few years ago former RHS teacher Zach Fields noticed too many students not pursuing a four-year college tract were graduating high school without much-needed connections to employers and post-secondary training programs. They were falling through the cracks, and he took that personally. 

Equipped with his own industry knowledge and plenty of community support, Fields set out to start RHS’ now thriving Construction Ready program. Between top-notch facilities, equipment and robust apprenticeships, the program has developed into a winwin for a workforce that is in dire need of new blood and for students looking for high-earning, fulfilling careers that won’t trap them behind a desk or put them in debt.

Have a high schooler on your hands? Learn more about the Construction Ready program here and why it shouldn’t be looked at just as an alternative to college but as an exciting path worth pursuing.

What trades does the class prepare students for?

Zach Fields: Students learn basic, and in some cases, advanced knowledge in carpentry, electrical, plumbing and masonry. They’re also introduced to Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Virtual Design Construction (VDC). Fundamental skills they learn include safety, measuring, material estimation, layout, hand and power tool use and employability skills, while advanced-work students can do stair calculations and layout, 3-way switches and more. 

What is the takeaway for students enrolled in Construction Ready?

ZF: Students can clearly see the career path connections they can build while still in school. Juniors are now getting summer jobs in construction, participating in Work-Based Learning where they can leave school for half a day and work in the industry and many seniors are about to start full-time work with the top contractors in the industry while others are going straight into debt-free apprenticeship programs. 

What do students love most about this class?

ZF: Students appreciate the opportunity to gain lifelong, valuable skills, but many also like having a class where they aren’t asked to sit at a desk all class period. They are doing work that is both mentally and physically engaging using their mind and their hands together. They also like that they have options to make good money using those skills. 

What about parents?

ZF: Parents overwhelmingly support this educational option. Parents are happy to see the “return of shop class” partly due to a positive nostalgia but more so in that they have clearly seen the negative impact of a lack of skilled tradespeople. They also love the prospect of debt-free post-secondary options leading to high wages and high-demand careers.

How close are they to becoming a trade professional when they finish?

ZF: While in the program, many students will complete their OSHA 10-Hour certification as well as trade-specific certifications from NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research). These are nationally recognized, performance-based credentials which are portable and stackable, meaning that students can easily continue their training in post-secondary and industry-based programs across the country. 

How has the local industry supported this program?

ZF: The industry has fully embraced the program with over 50 industry volunteers working alongside students this year educating them on career opportunities and helping to deliver industry-relevant trade skills. 

How has the program evolved since it began?

ZF: The biggest evolution is that the high school program has an entire feeder system of shop classes at the middle and elementary schools which feed it. There are over 1,300 students taking shop classes each year beneath the high school program with students from 2nd grade through 8th grade discovering a love of building and creating. 

What message do you hope the success of this program sends to other school districts?

ZF: The next generation is sitting in K-12 classrooms all over our country and we can help so many of them by introducing them to these skills and giving them a chance to decide for themselves what path to success they wish to take.

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