Building Trades Partnership Is Bringing Back Shop Class

CANFIELD, Ohio — A partnership with area building trades is giving school districts a chance to re-introduce shop class to their buildings – but this time it could lead students to good-paying jobs out of high school.

The Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio was approved for a $150,000 grant through the Ohio Department of Education’s RemotEDx initiative, funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Those dollars will go toward installing shop space in rooms at 10 area school districts for a pre-apprenticeship program in partnership with the Indiana Kentucky Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, or IKORCC, says Gary Hartman, association services director for The Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. The program is part of a partnership between the ESC, the Builders, the carpenters and the Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee.

As of this posting, other trades are looking to get on board, including local union halls for the ironworkers, roofers, bricklayers, sheet metal workers and laborers, Hartman says. Another five or six school districts are interested as well, he notes.

“Things are starting to come together with it,” Hartman says.

On April 14, 25 school superintendents, principals and teachers toured the training center for the Ohio Carpenters’ Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program in Richfield and the type of shop space that would accommodate the training.

“For them, it was to get an idea of what an apprenticeship school is doing to give them that hands-on visualization for what a program looks like,” Hartman says.

Getting that many administrators and faculty members out for a tour during spring testing speaks to the level of interest from schools districts, says Robert Eggleston, lead career counselor at the ESC.

“They’re invested. They’re ready to go,” Eggleston says.

Local school districts implementing the pre-apprenticeship program for the 2021-2022 school year include Austintown, Boardman, Brookfield, Canfield, East Palestine, Sebring, Springfield, United, Warren and West Branch.

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Gallery photos are from a tour of the Ohio Carpenters’ Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program in Richfield (Images: ESC of Eastern Ohio)

In addition to the grant monies, the schools are covering much of the cost of the program, Eggleston says.

Some of the districts, such as Warren and Boardman, already have an established shop program and will be adding to it, he says. Others – Brookfield and East Palestine, for instance – are starting their shop classes from scratch.

To help get the programs going, the ESC is requesting donations of safety equipment, hand and power tools, fasteners, lumber and work benches. The lumber is particularly difficult to come by because of the skyrocketing cost of wood during the coronavirus pandemic, Eggleston says.

Volunteers also are needed to supplement the program from an education side, he notes.

Anyone interested in donating or volunteering can contact Eggleston directly at

Students in participating school districts will have the opportunity to earn up to 24 industry-recognized credential points through Regional Council of Carpenters’ Career Connections curriculum, Eggleston says. Completing the program should improve the students’ eligibility for entry into the other participating trades, he adds.

The certifications earned under the pre-apprenticeship are Career Connections 1-3, a state approved pre-apprenticeship certificate, and OSHA 10 certification.

“When you take any class in high school, you don’t technically leave with something you can put on your resume,” Eggleston says. “These are certifications that they now own.”

Within two years, he expects to see upward of 100 to 150 students graduating high school with a pre-apprenticeship certification that qualifies them for entry into the building trades, he says.

The idea is to ensure students have the foundational skills to be successful when they enter the apprenticeship program through the trades union of their choice, says the Builders’ Hartman. In addition to the fundamental skills, students will learn math concepts, as well as safety and awareness skills, “which makes them a more well-rounded candidate,” he says.

Currently, apprentice programs have a 50% to 65% success rate on average. “We hope this bumps it up,” he says. The pre-apprenticeship program is designed to get them ready for more than just the practical work, he notes.

“Showing up to work daily, showing up on time. This will help prepare them for that aspect of it,” Hartman says.

In addition to positioning students for success, the trades look to bolster their ranks with programs like this and events like the Skilled Trades Day. With a push for post-secondary education in the 1990s, interest in shop class and the skilled trades saw “a gradual decline,” he says, as did financing for shop education.

“The money to support those programs, because they’re expensive, diminished on a state side and local tax base side,” he says.

Since then, guidance counselors and teachers are recognizing the effect of compounding student loan debt and a saturated job market, he says. Now, some schools are beginning to promote the skilled trades as a lucrative and respectable career path.

On average, skilled trades salaries start out making $15,000 to $20,000 more annually than those with a bachelor’s degree, he notes.

“That recognition has gotten into the school districts and the thought process that we need to get some people into those jobs too,” he says.

And with job recruitment down and attrition high, there is “lots of opportunity for growth,” Hartman says.

“This is a long-term plan,” he says. “We might not see significant industry growth with employees immediately. But now it’s expanding the horizons and getting the kids involved at an early age.”

Pictured at top: Some 25 school administrators and faculty toured the Ohio Carpenters’ Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program in Richfield on April 14 to get an idea of what a carpenters apprenticeship shop would look like. (Image: ESC of Eastern Ohio)