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building trades: opening up opportunities in the trades to students

The importance of skilled trades in delivering high-quality construction projects is critical. Skilled trade partners bring a level of expertise and precision that directly impacts the success of a project. However, the shortage of skilled trades workers continues to grow and threaten our industry’s ability to meet client demands.

At Russell, we understand there is a critical need to support skilled trades by investing in training programs, promoting apprenticeships, and encouraging the next generation to consider a career in the trades. That’s why we are proud to support innovative programs like the Building Trades program at North Scott High School in Eldridge, Iowa.

Building Trades Program

Building Trades is an educational program that equips high school students with practical skills in the construction trades. The program is designed to prepare students for careers in the trades by providing hands-on training and exposure to real-world industry skills including carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, and concrete installation.

One of the primary goals of the Building Trades program is to offer pathways that connect coursework to an eventual career. Through hands-on training and internship opportunities, the program helps students determine if a career in the trades is a right fit. The program also seeks to give students a competitive advantage when entering the workforce by helping them develop skills that employers are looking for.

“We want our students to learn skills and have the connections with industry partners that really put them leaps and bounds ahead of where someone graduating from high school would typically be. Some students may even have a year of an apprenticeship under their belts by the time they graduate”, stated James Simmons, Work-Based Learning Coordinator at North Scott High School.

Working Towards the Same Goal with Industry Partners

Since its inception, the leaders of the Building Trades program have worked closely with local industry partners –  like Russell – to provide feedback on industry trends and tailor the program to match the needs of employers. Russell has proudly contributed to the program in several ways, including:

  • Serving on the advisory board
  • Supporting the Student Built Home capstone project
  • Offering internships to students

The partnership between the Building Trades program and industry partners provides a win-win situation for everyone involved. Students get valuable work experience, giving them a competitive advantage, and companies get to evaluate potential employees and ensure a pipeline of skilled workers for future generations.

“The things we are doing are extraordinary and there are things that we could not possibly do without the support of partners like Russell. Companies like Russell recognize that there is a shortage of skilled labor and want to help us connect our students to skilled labor careers. Creating these partnerships really help elevate our program and provide a beneficial experience for our students,” said Simmons.

Regional Innovation Center – Expanding the Program 

The North Scott School District is taking its commitment to offering robust career pathways to the next level with plans to open the Regional Innovation Center in 2024. This new $19 MM, 86,000 s.f. facility will house various classrooms and laboratories to facilitate learning in career programs like construction tech, animal sciences, diesel tech, culinary arts, and agriscience. 

The two-story building has been thoughtfully designed as a real-world laboratory for learning, where students can engage in hands-on experiences that simulate real-life scenarios. For instance, the plumbing module on the first floor will be set up like a basement, while the second floor will mimic the main level of a house, giving students the opportunity to learn everything from installing a hot water heater to fitting a bathtub.

“What’s really exciting about the Regional Innovation Center is that the way this facility will be set up will allow us to teach advanced plumbing, advanced carpentry, advanced electrical, all at the same time in the same space.”

Groundwork is set to begin on the project in Spring 2023.