Even if enrollment at trade schools such as the Franklin County Career and Technical Center were to increase, Franklin County still wouldn’t have enough skilled laborers to fill local demand for skilled workers, says Kentucky Capital Development Corp. President and CEO Terri Bradshaw.
FCCTC Principal John Sanders says enrollment has remained steady in recent years — about 200.
One of the reasons is a stagnant population, Bradshaw said. Franklin County hasn’t seen a significant population increase in for 25 years, she said. Without more skilled laborers to fill jobs, the positions will remain vacant.
Franklin County has a need for 1,300 skilled laborers in the construction field, including plumbing, electric, and heating and cooling, with a projected growth of 14.41 percent by 2022, Bradshaw said. Advanced manufacturing jobs have a need for 3,500 skilled laborers, with projected 18 percent growth by 2022.
The good news is that FCCTC offers diverse class offerings in many of the needed fields, including welding, carpentry, health sciences, information technology, engineering and automotive technology. The classes end with students earning certifications necessary to enter one of those fields, Sanders said. And, students interested in entering a career in health care start with basic classes about emergency procedures, introduction to health sciences and other introductory classes. From there students choose to focus on nursing classes, pharmacy and, beginning next year, EMT, Sanders said.
Instructors at FCCTC use state-of-the-art technology and a dose of reality to help students earn certifications required to pursue many technical careers. Students also take dual-credit classes.
“We have a pathway for almost anything a student is interested in,” Sanders said. “When that pathway is not available, we try to find a way to give them some opportunities.”
But 200 students per year is not enough, Bradshaw said.
“Even if every student studied one of those fields, we still wouldn’t have enough skilled laborers to fill those positions,” she said.
Work ethic is also an issue, Bradshaw said, adding that modern society no longer values a day of hard work.
“We’re in the mindset where the less we have to do, the better it is,” she said. “These are hard jobs that not only require special skills but special work ethics.”
Sanders said the center gives tours to middle-school students to show them what is offered at the school. The tours work to show eighth-graders interested in learning trade careers that there’s a place they can do it as part of their high school studies. The hope is after the students see the technology and facilities available to them at FCCTC, it will elevate their curiosity into a passion, he said.
Center officials also work to show parents, who might have negative views of trade careers, that these jobs are needed, challenging and good-paying.
“As educators, and as a school district, part of our job is to inform and open eyes to other options,” Sanders said. “Yes, a four-year degree is great, but is that necessary for what field you’re wanting to go into?”
And students graduating from FCCTC often leave with hands-on experience and a certification in their field of study.
Health sciences students get hands-on training in CPR, Heimlich and patient care. The technical center has a room filled with mannequins used in that training. The room has CPR, choking and patient care mannequins to be trained on. There are also smart mannequins that can be programmed to mimic symptoms such as cardiac arrest to give the students a more realistic experience, Sanders said.
Students graduating from the pre-nursing program can leave with a certified nursing assistant certification, which is required for work in nursing homes and to go into postsecondary nursing programs at colleges and universities.
The welding department uses a state-of-the-art virtual welder, which costs $25,000 and introduces new students to the trade.
“The shop can be very intimidating to new students,” said welding instructor Randy Shewmaker. “With this, the virtual reality, they can come here, I set them up in scenario doing the same welds I’d have them doing out here.”
Welding students can earn American Welding Society and Department of Transportation certifications. FCCTC also has an articulated credit program set up with Blue Grass Community and Technical College and Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville, Florida.
The FCCTC carpentry students get real-world experience constructing exterior storage buildings, said carpentry instructor J.W. Blackburn. First-year carpentry students build the exteriors and second-year students do the finish, he said.
“These buildings sell for $3,200 at Lowe’s,” Blackburn said. “We’ll sell them to the district for $1,500. So, we’re saving them 50 percent. Plus the students get a real-life work experience. We’ll sell them to the public for $2,500.”
The profits from selling the student-constructed buildings go to funding student organizations, he said.
The technical center is open to high school students not only from Franklin County Schools but also Frankfort High School. Students sign up for classes just as they would for other high school classes. FCCTC students attend the center as part of their daily schedule, Sanders said.
“Unfortunately, there are still folks out there, and maybe even parents, who think we’re the vocational school,” Sanders said. “They think we’re for kids that don’t want to go to college or they just want to work with their hands. That’s completely changed. A lot of our kids do go to college.”