Building trades programs can give high school students an opportunity to learn about the construction industry. But some northern Illinois school districts are eliminating the class.
This year, both Harlem High School and Ottawa Township High School announced they would discontinue the vocational program.
Officials cite a decline in student interest, making it a difficult decision to keep instructors on the payroll. Administrators also say they’re worried about sending students into the home building market at a time when jobs might be hard to come by. The decision in Ottawa led to student protests this week.
Brad Long is with the Northwestern Illinois Building Trades Council. He says in an era of tight budgets, he can understand why some districts are deciding it's not worth it to keep the program.
But he says the Rockford District, which is implementing high school career academies, is a good example of how establishing partnerships with local professionals can be beneficial.
“For years, the community has been ready to help and volunteer, and maybe some districts haven’t been that receptive. But in Rockford now, they are and I think those partnerships are making the difference,” Long said.
Long says these programs not only prepare students for a possible career in construction, but they also provide a learning spark for those who struggle with traditional courses.