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Madison Heights

August 9, 2013

Madison High offers skilled trades certification program

Participants will be employable right out of high school

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

MADISON HEIGHTS — In the world of skilled trades — carpentry, electrical, concrete and so on — a whole array of certifications fall under the umbrella of the National Center for Construction Education and Research. NCCER provides the national industry curriculum followed by trade unions in Michigan and across the country.

Normally, such certification is pursued after high school. But starting this year at Madison High, students can enroll in a new program called Construction Technology, which will earn them NCCER certification by the time they graduate high school.

“They’ll be taking the same tests a would-be employee of a skilled union would be taking, only in this case, they’ll be doing it in high school,” said Dan Gilbertson, principal at Madison High.

Students in all grades can take the course, although it’s recommended for sophomores and older, since upperclassmen have more flexibility with electives. There are numerous prescribed curriculums through NCCER, and as the name of the program indicates, “construction technology” is the one Madison High has chosen.

“It’s a more broad-ranged certification, exposing students to concrete works, block-building in the masonry business, the actual carpentry aspects of home-building,” Gilbertson said. “Students will be using power tools like they would in the field. It’s rigorous hands-on learning, relevant to the real world.”

The principal said there are already enough students signed up to run the program, but more are always welcome to join. A certified NCCER instructor will teach the course.

The district is also exploring the possibility of partnering with ABC Construction for the provision of testing materials and textbooks. ABC Construction is the same group that skilled trade unions send their employees to in the evening for the same curriculum Madison High students will study during the day.  

Gilbertson said it’s an exciting opportunity — virtually unheard of at Michigan schools — where students will be employable in the skilled trades immediately out of high school.

“This is the real deal,” Gilbertson said. “These students will walk out with an industry certification and be work-ready in the field. Unlike other districts, we are providing a national industry certification program where our students, upon passing the assessments, will graduate with all of the necessary employment skills and qualifications.

“I think it’s making high school more relevant to students’ interests, and practical from the perspective they leave ready to work,” he said.

Alexander “Buddy” Marr, Madison board trustee and treasurer, said the program speaks to the fact there are viable career paths other than ones involving college.

“Kids are all different,” Marr said. “Some are going to college, some into trades, some into service. It’s a big world that takes all kinds to go ’round. We’re trying to open doors for kids, trying to make every avenue available.”

Albert Morrison, board president, agreed with Marr, and said it’s also about giving kids an edge, whichever path they pursue.

“I think the most important thing we can offer kids,” Morrison said, “is to be competitive right out of school.”

Madison High School, 915 E. 11 Mile, can be reached at (248) 548-1800.