District, others see bright future in the trades
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District, others see bright future in the trades

Aug 29, 2023

It may seem surprising that Derby's school district even has a demand for a full-time welder, but it does and Anthony Deliguin fills that mission.

"There's always something to do," said Deliguin, who is busy fixing chairs, desks, railings and other pieces of equipment and infrastructure around the district as its lead welder.

Deliguin, a former power plant operator, started with the district in April 2021 as a maintenance worker. When the previous welder, Steve Buehne, retired, Deliguin had a chance to move into the post.

To qualify himself, Deliguin took a welding course at Butler Community College, received a certificate, and has a new challenge in his career. He recommends his route for people who are "interested in working with their hands and learning new skills."

Along with being a welder such as Deliguin is, skilled trade jobs include being an electrician, plumber or auto repair technician, among others.

Deliguin is not alone in finding rewarding work in fixing and building things – along with making daily living operational for others with their technical and specialized skills.

An analysis by PeopleReady Skilled Trades found that the demand for those in the trades is growing. The calling also pays well, too, as 50% of skilled trade employees make $50,000 at the start of their careers, it found.

'No single path to success'

Greg Wise, managing director of the Life and Workforce Readiness Program at Boys and Girls Clubs of America, stated on the group's website that: “four-year college degrees have been traditionally positioned as the best place to start. However, continuing education is not limited to this traditional outlook ... and they also can be fulfilled by trade schools and two-year institutions. There is no single path to success."

Deliguin's supervisor, Burke Jones, USD 260's director of operations, said he has observed that there is a resurgence of encouraging students to go into the trades, which he called "wonderful."

Jones, who is in his 50s, said in his generation, there was a sense that all graduates needed to go into traditional four-year colleges, but now the feeling is that having a trades job is a decent way to make a rewarding living, with chances for advancement. "It's an excellent pathway and opportunity," he said. "I'm a big proponent of trades."

Their value was also demonstrated during COVID, when demand continued for them, even as other areas of the economy shut down.

Holly Putnam-Jackson, the district's assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said USD 260 is glad to be ramping up its offerings to students who want to go into a trades career. It's all about meeting the student's skills and interests with the right fit for a career calling.

"We need everyone in every field where they are talented," she said.

High school students undergo an IPS, or individual plan of study, in their junior year to see what they identify as their career interest or interests.

A variety of opportunities

For its part, the district wants to make sure it has a "balance of opportunities for students," which could include, but are not limited to, job shadowing, work sharing or internships.

District officials examine those endeavors to make sure that they are partnering with "creditable sources," and there isn't any motivation from the other party to take advantage of students. There's also work-based learning, where they get credit for their off-campus activities.

Putnam-Jackson said it appears that there is more interest in the trades now, but it's a bit hard to tell since the increased emphasis on career exploration is fairly new.

"In the past, they heard a lot about colleges and universities and heard less about the trades," she said.

Some students get a spark in their interest from observing a family member or friend in that line of work and finding that the activity is something that pulls them in. Other times it's learning about a trade in a classroom setting and extending that interest from there.

The main thing is that there are professional opportunities in the world beyond a school's wall, Putnam-Jackson said, including in the district itself, which is what Deliguin found. It's one he said he's pleased with. "I'm going to stick with this for awhile.”

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