What are careers in trades? Where do people learn how to become boilermakers, iron workers, plumbers or surveyors? How do people find out about apprenticeships? How do potential workers in building and construction trade learn more about these various careers?
The North Bay Trades Introduction Program (NB TIP) out of Santa Rosa offers answers to these and many other questions regarding apprenticeships. TIP serves as a pathway to careers, a pathway that leads to employment. While the NB TIP program is aimed at adults of 18 years and older, a similar program using nationally recognized “MC3” curriculum could potentially connect in high schools as a way for students to survey thirty possible careers including mechanics, carpenters, electricians, painters, roofers, sheet metal workers and other trade workers.
Some high schools are using this curriculum as a pathway to trade careers. At this level, a one-year program could include a survey of the various opportunities in the construction industry. The purpose would be to make students more familiar with what each trade does. One expectation might be to lead to an apprenticeship, including information about how to apply.
The program would include several topics similar to what TIP offers adults. The survey course would begin with a sort of construction industry orientation. Students would learn about tools and materials connected with particular trades.
Another aspect of the course would be a study of construction health and safety.
More technical but applicable to all of the trades would be a look at blueprint reading. Basic math for construction would be another essential study.
More sociological but also necessary would be the heritage of the American worker, a review of labor history in the United States. Along with that and just as timely, would be a study of diversity in the construction industry. And ecology, a study about green construction, would be as important as history and sociology. No less important, financial literacy is an imperative course in a trade that involves personal finances, contracts and adjustments.
Jack Buckhorn, Executive Director of the North Bay Labor Council, and Frank Cuneo, Director of the North Bay Trades Introduction Program, believe that the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District could benefit by having such a program in its most comprehensive high school, Rancho Cotate.
TIP employs a multi-craft core curriculum (MC3) developed by all of the trades to create apprentice readiness. The apprentice learns what he or she is getting into. The Department of Education has allocated programs. The program is available by approval of the building trades.
Cuneo and Buckhorn explained that a program built by the trades is going to lead into employment in the trades. The idea is to develop a career, not just a job. TIP has two general goals: develop apprentices and educate the community about apprenticeships and careers in the trades. A high school program could give students a head start and a gateway into apprenticeships and careers in the trades.
Cotati-Rohnert Park Trustee Tim Nonn invited Buckhorn to speak at a school board meeting this past spring to present the general advantages of the TIP program. Nonn has spoken at four board meetings about the importance of TIP and what it could mean to students in the district.
“I fully support this program for students. It will give many high school graduates in our district an opportunity for a well-paying, secure career in the building trades. I can’t see any reason not to develop and implement this apprenticeship program as soon as feasible. It would be unfortunate to let this opportunity slip through our fingers.”
The good news is that there is interest in promoting the trades in the district. Assistant Superintendent Julie Synyard said, “There is definitely an internal vision regarding supporting all students to achieve college and/or career readiness upon graduation.” California Technical Education offerings have increased at Rancho Cotate in recent years.
Speaking of Rancho’s principal, Synyard added, “Dr. Ganzler has spent considerable time and effort working with his CTE team and encouraging other high school teachers to acquire CTE credentials to help bolster students’ preparation for the trades.” Bridging the gap between the CTE programs and employment in the trades, a high school MC3 program could further develop students’ preparation and link them to actual apprenticeship programs.
Synyard has an open view to such a possibility as she stated, “I look forward to meeting with Mr. Buckhorn to see how his program could enhance our course offerings.”
A program utilizing the MC3 curriculum just might be the type of program that benefits students of our community with exposure to real and high quality careers. North Bay TIP Director Frank Cuneo and North Bay Labor Council Executive Director Jack Buckhorn believe this. Trustee Nonn is a strong advocate. Dr. Synyard looks to enhance the district’s offerings. Rancho Cotate Principal Louis Ganzler works to expand the pathways program. A career in the trades could have a complete pathway from classroom to apprenticeship to employment beginning in our school district.