Parkside Middle School Career Trades exploration program poised to serve as statewide model

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Jeff Comeau, President Young Professionals Group; Superintendent Bolgen Vargas; State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro; Mayor Joyce Craig; School Board Member Jimmy Lehoux; Teacher Larry Simpson; Joshua Reap, President ABC; Jennifer Landon, Director of Workforce Development, ABC. Courtesy Photo

MANCHESTER, NH – Local politicians, school district officials, and educators joined Associated Builders and Contractors of New Hampshire/Vermont (ABC) and its Young Professionals Group as they delivered a $2,000 donation, in addition to commitments from local companies, to help support the Middle School at Parkside’s new careers in construction exploration program.

“We are delighted to deliver this money and industry support to the school,” said Joshua Reap, President of ABC. “And the investment is more than just this check. Our contractors will invest materials to give the students projects and dozens of hours from their skilled workforce to teach the kids what a career in construction looks like.”

“For ABC, this is an investment in our community to create a better tomorrow,” added Reap.

According to ABC research, over 500,000 construction jobs need to be filled across the country. This need led Manchester Board of School Committee member and local construction executiveJimmy Lehoux to push for the creation of a construction careers program.

“We are having a tough time finding people that want to work in the skilled trades,” said Jimmy Lehoux. “That being told, as an industry we need to do a better job educating our students at a younger age and also reaching their parents to let them know that a child in construction will be highly skilled working with high-tech tools. If the student choses a career in the trades they will be involved in a well-payed, well respected profession that they can make a great career at.”

Noting that college was often prioritized over traditional vocational careers, Lehoux made connecting students with construction career opportunities a key part of his campaign for school board.

“College is a great option, but it’s not the only one. In construction your employer pays for your education, meaning you can ‘earn while you learn’ without loads of college debt. From my first day on the school board, I have been promoting a 5-point plan to expose our kids to other career opportunities, and with a unanimous vote by the Manchester School Board they agreed.”

“I am pleased that Principal Ransdell and teacher Larry Simpson along with our industry partners saw the value and stepped up to make this program a reality,” added Lehoux.

Where most schools have done away with their shop classes, the Middle School at Parkside has developed a semester-long project-based pilot program to introduce 7th grade students to the skills and career opportunities within the construction trades.

“We turned the wood working class into a focused program where every week the students explore a different career in construction,” said Simpson. “Our local employers saw a need and we responded by creating a partnership. We are thankful for our industry partners because students get to learn from trades people about their profession. I will tell you, the kids were enchanted to learn the guy in a suit, who drives a nice new truck, has a house and the whole package was a plumber. It’s that kind of industry involvement that gets kids to think differently and makes education fun.”

Over the course of the year, every Parkside student will participate in the program. If successful, the program will serve as a template for other schools and sectors of industry.

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