Trumbull County ESC Pre-Apprenticeship Program Builds Carpentry Skills

LORDSTOWN – The smell of fresh sawdust and the sound of hammering were once common in Trumbull County high schools, where carpentry was taught.

Now, county students will again have the opportunity to learn skills of the trade through the Education Extension Pre-Apprenticeship Program.

James Rook, curriculum supervisor at Trumbull County Educational Service Center, said he was among the students at his school who took a shop class, but those programs went away over the years.

“We’re looking to bring it back, especially for those school districts that don’t have the means to do that,” Rook said. “What we’re trying to do here at the Trumbull County Educational Service Center is help provide that for the school districts, so kids can report to our program in a brand-new facility, where they can learn these trades and have a leg up.”

With renovations now complete, the Trumbull County Educational Service Center is ready to open the doors to the new pre-apprenticeship carpentry program, housed at the former Gordon D. James Career Center at 1776 Salt Springs Road in Lordstown. The TCESC is celebrating the opening of the school with a ribbon-cutting and open house event on Tuesday.

The first class of 25 juniors from four high schools will begin the two-year program this fall, although there is room for additional students. Skills to be taught include operation of hand tools and other equipment, as well as safety standards.

There are about 25 workstations in the classroom, outfitted with the tools and supplies needed for completing each project. Students will start with a birdhouse project and gradually may be able to build a picnic table and Adirondack chairs.

In addition to career coaching and free tuition, students can receive the 12-point industry-recognized credentials and diploma seals.

Staying at their home high school for part of the day, students will remain connected to their friends and other school activities. Rook said the school recognizes the importance of students remaining connected to their schools.

“We tried to balance and do the best of both worlds, where they can still get their credit and participate in traditional high school and then excuse themselves and come out and work with us,” Rook said.

The program was opened to all Trumbull County school districts aligned with the Educational Service Center, with Howland, Niles, Lordstown and Girard sending students for this school year. 

The renovation of the classroom space and much of the equipment, including Chromebooks, for the students were purchased with $300,000 in Ohio Department of Education grant money. Additional tools were purchased with a $25,000 partnership with Lowe’s. 

Rook said Mike Coates Construction of Niles did an “excellent” job on the renovation of the building and Howland Alarm installed the security devices and software.

“We’ve really tried to work with area businesses so that everybody has a hand in trying to support all the Trumbull County students,” Rook said. “They did such a great job and went above and beyond, so we owe them a lot of respect, generosity and good will.”

If they successfully complete this program and graduate from high school, the students will have the opportunity to enter the Ohio Carpenters’ Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program through the Northeast Ohio Carpenters’ Training Center. Working out of the Richfield office, students would be pared with a trained carpenter for on-the-job training, as well as get additional classroom training in a needed field. 

Although the majority of new apprentice carpenters do come to the training center without experience, Aaron Gunderman, the area coordinator for the training center, said those students who come with pre-apprenticeship training get direct entry to the program. Additionally, any skills and safety training puts them a little ahead in the program. 

The apprenticeship is a four-year program with 17 weeks in the program with a week in the classroom every four months. The rest of the time, the journeyman apprenticeship allows participants to earn a salary while training.

Gunderman says those in the carpentry union can make good wages, with pensions and health care.

The construction trades are listed sixth on the Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation top jobs list, while carpenters are ranked No. 26. The median salary for a carpenter is $50,000 with 26,000 employed in the field across the state and nearly 3,000 openings.

With people retiring from the field and plenty of construction jobs planned for the future, Gunderman said it is important to train the next generation.

Through the apprenticeship programs, experienced carpenters mentor the carpenters of the future.

Rook says he would like to see high school students benefit from the experience already in the local community.

“We’re hoping that a big part of our curriculum will also involve bringing real employers and tradespeople into the classroom to actually talk with the students about their positions and experiences,” Rook said. “That way students can actually see and talk to someone who has been through it. We’re always looking for new partnerships and we’re hoping this is going to be a great program for everybody.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.