LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — With an estimated 27 percent of Nevada's high school graduates heading to college, education leaders in Clark County are coming together to offer opportunities for those who aren't seeking a degree.
That was the goal of the Apprenticeship Summit held at Desert Rose High School Wednesday.
This as leaders from local businesses came together with Clark County School district and Workforce Connections to identify barriers that make it difficult for graduates to get involved in apprenticeships with local trade unions and businesses.
"What are the barriers? What is going to get in the way? Why haven't we been doing this?" Superintendent Jesus Jara said. "How do our business partners come in and get involved."
Some of the barriers identified by the group are getting representatives from the trades access to schools, liability issues, transportation issues, and concerns over OSHA regulations concerning the use of power tools by people under 18.
"This is something we've been working on for decades to get talent that comes out of our schools," Jeff Proffitt, Business Manager at SMART Local 88 said.
This as the Sheet Metal Workers and other trade unions say there is a shortage of skilled workers in Southern Nevada.
Proffitt said a lot of the problem is getting students familiar with the work.
"I didn't know I wanted to be a sheet metal worker until the first day I stepped on the job. I didn't know a sheet metal worker existed and I don't want that for anyone else," Proffitt said.
While schools, like Desert Rose High School, are working to introduce students to welding, manufacturing, nursing and other industries, organizers are pushing to start the discussion about career options even earlier.
"One of the things we've identified now that we need to work on is earlier exposure. Some of these amazing kids we have in our programs today and they were telling us they found out in their sophomore and junior year," Jaime Cruz, Executive Director of Workforce Connections said. "We need to get them in middle school. We need to expose them to these opportunities in elementary school."
This as the superintendent, union leaders and workforce development experts all say, well prepared high school graduates can make a solid living going through apprenticeships in trades.
"You can be a bio diesel mechanic and earn six figures. There are plenty of examples of occupations that are in demand that we can't fill today," Cruz said.
Compared to some college graduates, the superintendent says the pay being earned in some the skilled trades is nothing to shake your head at.
"How many of our high school graduates that are going to college and getting a degree are graduating after 4 years walking into a job making $40 an hour," Jara said. "You can raise a great family making that much money and it is a meaningful job and it has really become a great citizen in this community."
As the district corks to build more career and technical training into the curriculum, the superintendent says it is important to offer balance so students are prepared to go to college or straight into the workforce when they pick up their diploma.