Wearing backpacks and safety glasses, 25 young people intently observed trade professionals demonstrate carpentry, plumbing and electrical wiring.

Most days they learn about these fields at their high school, Hudson’s Bay. They’re enrolled in a class taught by Aaron Pierce that is focused on building trades as part of the school’s Architecture, Construction and Environmental Services program.

On May 25, they had additional teachers: the licensed and highly skilled Vancouver Public Schools employees who keep the district’s facilities and grounds operating efficiently. At the large building on Fruit Valley Road that houses the facilities support service center, students learned skills including disassembling flush valves, rekeying locks, building whiteboards and wiring light fixtures.

Sophomore Maggie McBroom, who is considering a career as an electrician or finish carpenter, recognized many of the same tools she’d learned about at Bay. “I like to see how everything works and the environment here,” she said.

When the district’s career and technical education department proposed the idea of the partnership, the facilities support staff seized the opportunity. Said Supervisor AJ Panter, “We’re really excited to see kids interested in this work. If we can be involved to educate or at least make them aware of what’s available out there, then that’s what we want to do.”

He pointed to high demand for skilled trade workers. Data indicates that construction is a high-growth industry in the local area, with more than 15,000 new jobs with a high average hourly pay expected over the next decade.

Seeing working professionals at the facilities support service center “gives you inspiration and excitement to work in this field,” said Bay senior Gerardo Colin, who is hoping to secure an electrician apprenticeship. “It’s a huge field to help us as teenagers get into the work environment.”

Added Colin, “I recommend it for anybody who wants to get on working right away.”

Photos by Cheryl Boatman