Students rehab houses, learn skills

Vocational students in Philadelphia are rehabbing houses as an after-school activity, reports the Inquirer. One team is working on a former drug house.

For two hours a day, five days a week, the students strip floors, frame walls, install plumbing, paint rooms, and lay tile.

But the members of a construction after-school club are also learning about the value of a job done well, the satisfaction of transforming a neighborhood eyesore.

Bok High’s first house took four years to gut and remodel; it sold to a first-time buyer for $75,000, which pays for supplies and $5 hourly salaries for students.

Construction club members aren’t allowed to work on the house unless they’ve gone to class, which has boosted attendance.

Andrew Meak, 16, a junior, paused from prepping the kitchen for its paint job.

“Maybe it’s a guy thing,” he said, shrugging. “I really like learning how to do stuff.”

I saw this on a visit to ISUS in Dayton, Ohio, a dropout-recovery charter school that lets construction students build houses from scratch and rebuild historic homes with green technology. For kids who aren’t academically inclined, hands-on learning — with a realistic shot at a job if they master the skills — is very motivating.

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  1. Tracy W says:

    Also should be useful if they ever want to do some DIY on their own homes.

  2. Too bad there are so few such programs.

  3. Absolutely, Darren.

    When I was in school there was a program like this. We need more of these programs. There is no reason that high schools can’t offer internship-like training in practically all trades.

  4. There used to be shop class – but it isn’t relevant in todays educational paradigm.

  5. Bandit,

    Would you care to explain? I can’t tell if you agree or disagree.

    It isn’t relevant? According to the US Dept., the average four-year college graduate makes $46000/yr while the average plumber/electrician makes $49800/yr.

    Currently, only 29% of the country holds a four-year degree, and that is the highest it has ever been. Additionally, the fastest growing segment of the economy is service and skill-related.

  6. Back in the dark ages, I know of high schools who not only offered job-ready preparation not only in the “shop” trades and secretarial areas, but in cosmetology and as Licensed Practical Nurses, among others. I have talked with recent high school graduates who would have loved to have done their cosmetology/massage therapy/xray tech/medical assistant training in high school. It would have been a huge savings in both cost and time.

  7. If you can’t figure it out I’m not going to explain it.

  8. Bill Leonard says:

    What Darren said!

    It probably depends on where you live, but in the SF Bay Area, any such public school programs would be hard-put to survive without the blessing of the various craft unions or the building trades council, which wants to control any such opportunities. Which of course, makes it that much more difficult to sell such a program to the administration.

  9. Our district still has shop and auto maint., but it is threatened because no local college is certifying anyone in these areas anymore and under NCLB’s highly qualified teacher rule, you can’t have uncertified types teaching. Same danger to FACS and Business. So the state/region needs to figure something out on that score. We now have teacher express programs, and that might solve it.

    It is perfectly easy to get job training in high school in this county — I think they have programs in beauty, finish carpentry, building trades, small engine repair, nursing, etc. A number of my kids do that part of the day and then come back to the high school for their core classes — the key is they can’t flunk any core classes or the schedule doesn’t work for graduation credits — it’s tight. I think the kids going into union trades enter the apprenticeship programs as seniors. I don’t think this program is in any way unusual — we had something similar in the district I graduated from, and that was 2000 miles and 25 years away from where I am now.

    It isn’t a panacea, though. Lots of kids who would never make it in college can’t do the voc program because they’re earning too many F’s — or they just don’t show an interest in learning a trade. Rather work at Steak ‘n Shake, I guess.

  10. Wow, Bandit. That’s rather crass.

    I was genuinely interested in your perspective of today’s educational paradigm. Not so much anymore.

  11. Bill Leonard says:

    “…and under NCLB’s highly qualified teacher rule, you can’t have uncertified types teaching.”

    So in other words, a lot of people are simply screwed. Don’t really qualify for a 4-year school, but are precluded from learning and being certified in nay valuable skills areas.

    But tell me: is all this supported by taxpayer dollars? If so, then Mae West’s line, roughly approximated, applies:

    “The problem my country’s government is, it’s too late to work within the system, but it’s too early to just shoot the bastards.”

    Some of us think it’s just time to shoot the bastards.


  12. Bill: No, a wealthy and anonymous philanthropist has swooped in and funded our public education system here.

    Nobody’s screwed. The whole thing is fully staffed and funded. We’re not California. We even have music, art, and four foriegn langauges.

  13. Oh gawd, what if the folks who brought us edu-fads such as whole language direct their attention to the improvement of vocational education?

    If they can’t prevent the widespread re-introduction of vocational education they’ll certainly try to seize control of such programs.

    I can’t imagine what such folks would do to a vocational education program but on the basis of what’s been done to the balance of the public education system, it difficult to come up with scenarios that don’t result in either laughing or crying.