MOUNT VERNON — Now more than ever many options are available to students after graduating high school. A traditional four-year college education is not necessarily the path that every student wants, and the Knox County Career Center has taken steps to ensure that every student has a pathway available to them in their post-secondary life, as they hosted a skilled trades union fair Thursday.
Over half a dozen local unions and apprenticeship programs spoke to students about the skilled trades, including International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers; Carpenters and the Millwrights; Operating Engineers; Sheet Metal Workers, Speer Mechanical; Iron Workers 172; and the Mansfield Area Electrical Apprenticeship.
Juniors and seniors in precision machining, auto technologies, collision repair, building trades and metal fabrication were able to spend time with representatives from each of the organizations and learn about the additional options that are available to them through their vocational training at KCCC.
“We want them to learn their options when they graduate high school,” J.R. Rice with the Mansfield Area Electrical Apprenticeship explained. “They have many options available to them with the Spring economy. We want them to consider options in the union trade apprenticeship programs.”
Rice explained that the Mansfield Area Electrical Apprenticeship program is a five-year program that trains future electricians.
“Our program is a lot more lengthy than some of the other programs, because there’s a lot more to learn,” he said. “Honing your skills as an electrician, there’s a lot of theory, C and DC theory, so we are a five-year apprenticeship program.”
This program, like many of the apprenticeship programs represented at the fair, provide students with an opportunity to accrue college credit. Rice explained that 45 nights per year for the five years the students are attending classes, and will earn an Associates Degree in electrical and mechanical technologies. The Mansfield Area Electrical Apprenticeship program is affiliated with North Central State College, he said.
“Mr. [Colby] Clippinger’s class is a really great class, he does a great job with the building trades students in his class, so we know that his class is really well prepared for apprenticeship programs when they get through their two years here at Knox County Career Center,” Rice said. “He really prepares them for apprenticeship programs, and if you look around here, almost all the skilled trades are here, because he does a good job of preparing kids for our programs. They already know the basics of construction when they leave this program. They have the basic math skills, and the safety trainings, because they teach the OHSAA 10-hour trainings, which is a big thing for us. So we’re all here wanting these young men and women to consider apprenticeships.”
The industries brought in alumni from KCCC, as well as current apprenticeship participants, like Jordun Bailey, a 2015 Clear Fork and KCCC graduate, representing Ironworks 172 and 2016 graduate Derek Elliott, an apprentice with a fulltime job with Shelly & Sands in Mansfield.
Senior building trades student Dallas Gamble explained that though these industries have been primarily dominated by men, strides have been made to include more female workers in heavy industries.
“I’ve learned that it’s actually more accepting to women now-a-days,” Gamble said. “It wasn’t, back when my lab instructor [Clippinger] went here, he said it wasn’t really common for girls to be in a heavy lab. He said, now he’s seen more women coming into the lab and being more successful than some of the boys he has. He thinks us girls have a keen eye for making things look perfect.”
Gamble explained that there are a total of three senior female building trades students and two juniors in the lab.
“There’s not that many, but it’s starting to get more common for girls to come into heavier labs.” Gamble said.
For all of the students, the fair gave them an opportunity to make connections and explore future pathways, building trades instructor Colby Clippinger said.
“The biggest thing I want them to take away from the experience is to have as many opportunities for pathways after graduation,” Clippinger said. “That the Career Center connects them to those pathways.”