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Designation as a pre-apprenticeship program will give students an edge when to applying for training programs

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - Students in the independent carpentry class at St. Helens High School build a structure that will cover a small playground on campus for the Cub's Corner Childcare center in 2016. The building and construction program at the high school was recently accredited by the state as an approved pre-apprenticeship program.The building and construction program at St. Helens High School is now one of just 10 programs in the state to be recognized as a pre-apprenticeship program through the state Bureau of Labor and Industry.

The program, which is led by high school teacher Joe Mauck, was recently approved by the Oregon State Apprenticeship and Training Council as a certified pre-apprenticeship program, which is accredited through BOLI.

Certification requires the program organizer to submit a robust and complex application to be considered, explained Charlie Burr, BOLI's communications director.

The certification means students who complete a specific course load of construction classes in high school and pursue an apprenticeship program will have completed a certified pre-apprenticeship program, which gives them an edge on applications for future career training.

As a portion of the certification, the high school has also partenered with the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute, an organization in Portland that trains students in various trades programs. Students who complete the certified pre-apprencticeship program will gain direct entry into the training program offered at PNCI, Executive Director Michael Hawes said.

"The work that we do is technical, so if they've already had some experience in high school with carpentry skills, that puts them on a higher track to come into the program," Hawes said.

A letter of support from Miguel Montano, a training coordinator with the institute, states that "the carpentry program at St. Helens continues to stand out as one of the most robust programs in the State ... We anticipate that successful graduates of the St. Helens High School program will positively impact the future carpentry workforce."

Students must go through at least three years of classes to complete the school's building and construction program, starting with woodworking and continuing on to building construction, followed by either courses of independent carpentry or renovation and remodeling. Many students have the opportunity to earn dual college credits through Portland Community College with the program.

"One of the cool things about it is that with certification, it allows these students to go into other apprenticeships with a little less trouble as well," Montano added.

Mauck noted that several students who recently graduated from his program and have applied for training programs in plumbing and electrical work are on waitlists to start after high school. In the future, Mauck said he hopes to apply for cross-program certification to give high school graduates who complete similar hands-on, skill-based programs a similar edge.

On average, seven to eight students graduate each year who have successfully completed the program, Mauck estimated. With competition from a variety of other career and technical education courses offered at the school, like automotive maintenance, pre-engineering, early childhood education and web programming, the somewhat modest number is still significant.

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