By Tori Karpenko
Just how important are the trades to the average person?
If a bizarre apocalyptic event suddenly wiped out 100% of people working in the trades, how would you function? If you didn’t possess the skills to troubleshoot your misbehaving toilet, keep your water running and the lights on, or fix your heater when it breaks down, who would do it for you? With nobody available to fix your car or run public transportation, what would life be like?
Skilled trades workers form the backbone of a list of essential services so long that without them our homes, schools, restaurants, hospitals, vehicles, tools and so much more completely break down.
How important is trades education to the average high school student? For many, it will be the one thing that really lights the fire that forges a future.
For the past eight years, TwispWorks has partnered with the Methow Valley School District to provide several trade-based educational opportunities for high school students. Starting with the resurrection of the welding program in 2014, the program has grown to provide basic to advanced welding training for 50 students in three classes every semester. These popular classes are continually at max capacity.
The growth edge for the curriculum is a plan to incorporate dual-credit learning with Wenatchee Valley College, which would allow a high school student to graduate with college credit that could accelerate a pathway to a career in the trades. Additional planning is underway to expand what is currently a very small automotive tech program with a new, fully modern facility connected to the welding building.
A similar approach to dual-credit learning is envisioned for the automotive curriculum, as is a desire to incorporate electrification of vehicles and future learning pathways to an industry that currently has a shortage of skilled workers.
Meeting real-world needs
At the Liberty Bell High School main campus, students can also pursue credits in CTE classes such as wood shop, computer design, entrepreneurship, outdoor recreation, culinary arts and applied math. ILC principal Sara Mounsey also teaches a business math course for ILC students attending school on the TwispWorks campus.
Many of these classes provide learning opportunities that cater to real-world situations or have some flexibility to include creative individual projects. Current welding and automotive tech. instructor Matt Kennedy recently affirmed how essential these classes are: “CTE provides a pathway for students who may not otherwise graduate. It can be an alternative track with different testing requirements that is much better suited to some students’ style of learning.”
In my 12 years of working at TwispWorks, one of my greatest joys is bumping in to recent Liberty Bell graduates at construction sites throughout the valley. It’s great to see them working for a local contractor, making good money, and continuing to develop their skills. Some of them have even advanced to starting their own businesses.
For anyone who has recently called up a plumber, electrician or any number of skilled trades, we all know there is a shortage of people available to repair or improve a wide range of things in our homes. I am thrilled that there is a viable pathway for local kids to get started on a career in the trades. They will most certainly find there is plenty to do after graduation!
Tori Karpenko is Director of Campus Operations at TwispWorks.