A Tale of Trades

Skill-based preparation benefits students pursuing vocational careers

Sireen Abayazid, Online Editor

According to Professors Harry Holzer and Robert Lerman, “middle-skill” jobs make up roughly half of America’s employment. Our district has taken special steps to advance education that enables students to pursue these careers, and MN has implemented a number of methods to create interest in skill-based career fields such as SkillsUSA, Avenue Scholars and the annual Skilled Career Expo.

“As part of our MPS Strategic Plan, specifically Result 2.3, Millard will expand career and technical education and readiness opportunities to all students by increasing and utilizing partnerships with the education, business, and industry community,” principal Brian Begley said.

SkillsUSA is a vocational leadership club that prepares kids for the workforce. The club’s competitive atmosphere encourages hands-on experience for a number of careers, with events ranging from Commercial Baking to Welding and Carpentry.

“[SkillsUSA] gets them ready for what it’s like outside of school,” Industrial Technology teacher Greg Dunn said. “A lot of kids get really passionate about what they’re doing.”

In addition to programs meant to introduce career options, the district also works to provide resources for students already interested in a particular career path. Avenue Scholars, a new program at MN, is a selective program geared toward students seeking a high skill and high demand profession. Students apply to the program in their sophomore year and begin classroom and hands-on training in many skill-based professions during their junior and senior years. 

During their senior year of high school, Avenue Scholars students can apply for the program’s Horatio Alger scholarship, an $8,000 scholarship awarded to any Avenue Scholar who demonstrates proficiency in the field they chose. 

“Our mission is to ensure careers for committed students of hope and need through education training and supportive relationships,” Avenue Scholars teacher Allison Goff said.

Goff is responsible for the Student Support facet of the Avenue Scholars program. Along with receiving training in the field of their choice, students also receive individual support, group programming, and referrals to community resources to help them meet basic life and social/emotional needs.

“My goal for the students is for them to be happy, successful and have a career that they enjoy,” Goff said. 

Every year, Millard North holds a Skilled Career Expo to promote local opportunities for students to enter a trade after high school. The Skilled Career Expo gives students a chance to network in a field they are interested in, and can even lead to summer internships.

“I think there’s a huge need for employees in the trades areas,” counselor Jillian Depue said. “In the past, it’s been looked down on for a kid to not go to a four-year college, but many of these jobs kids do incredibly well with and can become very successful.”