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Thursday, September 29, 2022
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Local School Districts Promote Skilled Trades


Trade Student | Image by Shutterstock

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Amid a deficit of skilled trade workers in the U.S., some North Texas independent school districts are deploying programs that allow high schoolers to get a tailored education geared toward trades, creating a talent pool to staff jobs like electricians, plumbers, and line workers.

Both Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD offer Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) graduation plans, which allow students to earn their high school diploma while gaining industry-recognized certification and work experience in high-demand job fields.

P-TECH is not a diversionary alternative to college readiness an attempt at tracking students. The program also offers high schoolers the opportunity to earn up to 60 hours of tuition-free college credit, roughly equivalent to an associate’s degree.

Still, the school-to-skilled trade pipeline might be providing the most visible benefits to North Texas high school graduates.

At Fort Worth ISD, for instance, a partnership between the district and Oncor Electric allowed now-high school graduate Fabian Ramirez to get early job training in electrical work.

Oncor ended up paying for Ramirez’s trade school studies at a local community college and sponsored his training to become a utility lineman, a job with a base salary as high as $86,000.

“It’s unbelievable. Like, I would have never thought that [I’d] get a job like this,” said Ramirez, speaking with NBC 5.

Fort Worth ISD Collegiate High School Principal Quanda Collins said of Ramirez, “He’s 19. And on a trajectory to have a solid foundation, financially, no college debt.”

High school students entering skilled trades early not only set themselves up for future financial security but also meet a national need.

“The skilled labor shortage is one of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. economy,” stated Stanley Black & Decker CEO Jim Loree.

Speaking about the role that private industry could play in making up the deficit, Loree said:

“Collectively, there is more we can do to make trade careers resonate with young people. We can increase career and technical education … programs at schools and ensure students appreciate the income potential and lifestyle advantages of skilled trade careers.”

No one needs to tell Ramirez that.

“There’s definitely a need for people to join these trades,” said Ramirez. “Now, my dad can take a break from working a lot, and I can help with some bills. Every once in a while, we can go out and take my family out to eat or something like that. Like now, I have the money for it.”

While Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD plan on expanding P-TECH, given the program’s relative success, both districts still struggle with their standardized test metrics and on-time graduation rates.

Recently, a report issued by Fort Worth Education Partnership (FWEP) found that nearly two-thirds of city students in third-eighth grades are not attaining “at grade level” scores on their STAAR tests.

Dallas ISD continues to struggle for its part, with only 41% of its students meeting grade level on STAAR tests during the 2020-2021 school year, joining Fort Worth ISD below the unimpressive statewide average of 48%.

Such failures can be found further down the line too.

More than 10% of the two districts’ combined graduating class of 2022 either dropped out or did not finish high school in four years, a lower success rate than the statewide average.    

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