ECPS construction courses address labor shortage while teaching life skills

ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — A local school district is hoping to address a construction labor shortage while also teaching students valuable life skills.

Students in Mr. Chad Cherry’s building construction class at Northview High School come to class ready to get to work.

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“It’s my main class I want to come to for the day,” Northview High School senior Jayden Franklin said. “I get to do something; I don’t have to sit in class and be bored on the computer. I get to come get hands-on experience and get to work on things.”

They’re getting experience in everything from electrical, plumbing, HVAC and even carpentry.

“It’s giving them those practical life skills so that as they encounter a problem they can troubleshoot it, figure it out and do it on their own,” Cherry said.

As part of the class, students earn various certifications, giving them a head start when entering the workforce. During the 2022-2023 school year, Mr. Cherry’s students earned 164 certifications, according to Escambia County Public Schools.

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ECPS hopes the lessons will help address a local labor shortage.

“Anything that we can do to help that, it aids all of us. Bringing cost down to build a home because there’s enough laborers to do that,” Cherry said “What I like to get across to all of our students is that simple fact that just because you don’t go to college does not mean that you are not going to make a decent income.”

But for Mr. Cherry, who has been with the district for 18 years as a building inspector and fire inspector and has experience in the construction industry, he wants his students to pick up valuable life skills regardless of what field they’re going into.

“I plan on going to trade school at George Stone to get my aviator and airframe degree as a mechanic, so I can go work on planes and be licensed to do that,” Franklin said. “This wouldn’t really help me in that field so much, but it would allow me in the future to be able to work on my house, do repairs, things like that.”

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No matter what field his students decide to enter, Mr. Cherry has a message to his students.

“Do what you love,” Cherry said. “If you get up and go to work and you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to be happy so make sure whatever you do in life you enjoy and you love.”

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