Construction Instruction

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Instructor Gary Hanan, right, shows carpentry students the tools around the carpentry shop on the first day of class on Monday at the downtown campus of Owensboro Community & Technical College on Frederica Street.

Owensboro and Daviess County public schools are partnering with Owensboro Community & Technical College to offer high school students more opportunities with post-secondary education.

The partnership's first carpentry class took place Monday at OCTC's downtown campus off Frederica Street. The program includes three sessions that have both Owensboro and Apollo high school students involved. Per the agreement between Owensboro Public Schools and OCTC, the college will donate its space and tools, and both OPS and DCPS will be splitting the cost of the instructor, who will officially be considered an OPS employee.

This course was born from a task force composed of OPS, DCPS, OCTC and members of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce that was formed last year. The purpose of the task force was not only to provide students with more career and technical options, but also to meet the community's workforce needs and new graduation requirements.

The new requirements provide students with more choices when it comes to choosing high school courses that suit their interests and career plans. However, they also pose a slight problem for some districts in Kentucky, including OPS and DCPS, that don't have access to advanced technology centers that provide the necessary education for certifications in high-demand job fields such as technical or electrical.

Both districts already excel in providing opportunities for students to take dual-credit courses, which allows for college credits while still in high school. There are shared programs in place, like the Community Campus option that is a partnership between DCPS, OPS, Owensboro Catholic Schools, Hancock County Schools and OCTC. Within the program are two academies, one for engineering and one for life science.

Amanda Jerome, DCPS college and career readiness coordinator, said educators are aware that not all students will be going to a four-year college or university after graduation.

"So we wanted to provide more opportunities for our students who are seeking out a career in the trades," Jerome said.

She said the task force met about once a month last year, and at times the Home Builders Association of Owensboro was involved to provide input. Representatives from the association told task force members that they have a need for students to be exposed to careers in carpentry and construction.

Monica Rice, OPS college and career readiness counselor, said it became aware to task members that there is a "huge need" for workers in trades, especially young people.

She said this will be an introductory course to all things construction-related and will also include instruction on plumbing, heating and air, flooring and roofing.

"It's a first-year introductory course that will allow the students to see what the construction field looks like and what opportunities are out there for them," Rice said.

There will be some classroom instruction, but most of the work will be hands-on in the lab. They will learn everything from building a birdhouse to assisting Habitat for Humanity with construction on some of their homes, Rice said.

The Home Builders Association, as well as other community partners, will be donating supplies for students to use and learn with throughout the year because, Rice said, "they are chomping at the bit to get people."

"They are ready to hire as soon as our seniors graduate with some experience," she said.

Jerome agreed, saying for students to gain hands-on experience like this will hopefully allow graduates to be "more hireable."

"I feel like they will have more knowledge coming out of a course like this and will look better to employers, especially those who are associated with the Home Builders," Jerome said.

Jerome also said this course is a perfect example of various groups in the community working together toward a common goal.

"We are really pleased with this partnership," she said. "Everybody is working together to make this possible for our students."

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315.

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