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The Bulldog Builders

The Bulldog Builders
Posted on 08/29/2018
Arvada High School student Monica Medina does some work with a circular saw as part of the school’s pre-apprenticeship construction trades program.High school pep rallies are always a high-energy way to start the day at Arvada High School. After it’s done, most students head off to class with a Chromebook, but there are some who prefer a shed and a paintbrush. These students are in Arvada’s pre-apprenticeship construction trades program. It’s one of half a dozen academic pathways offered by the school.

“We want our students to be able to attend a program and leave high school where they can actually be certified and be able to do something with that right out of high school,” said Principal Gina Rivas.

A partnership with Warren Tech helps make it happen. The program is led by someone who came directly from the world of construction trades to teaching, Mark Frates, who not so long ago was an HVAC tech working on air condition, heating, chillers, and boilers.

“The trade was great to me but noticing the new kids that were coming into the trade didn’t possess the skills that I think I was taught coming out [of school], so I wanted to give back,” explained Frates.

Every day for three hours, Frates works with the students on everything from HVAC basics to framing to glazing to plumbing. The program splits time between Arvada High School and field visits to construction trade professionals, with lots of authentic, hands-on opportunities.

“The overall goal is to introduce them briefly to each trade. We started out the year asking the kids what they were interested in. Some are interested in a specific trade, others had no idea what to expect,” explained Frates. “As the second semester goes on, say one of the kids becomes very interested in plumbing, we’re going to be building a miniature house with, that will be as realistic as possible for them.”

For many of the students, convenience is a significant factor.

“I think it’s an amazing thing that Warren Tech and Arvada are pairing up. It provides students who don’t have the transport over there or the time,” said student Justin Martinez. “The whole building trades is a growing industry, and it’s always in demand. It’s a really good program for kids to get into for their future.

Monica Medina enrolled because she thought the learning would help with her goal of one day becoming an architect.

“Learning how to basically put up a building, step by step and I already know how to read blueprints, so that’s what architects also do,” she said.

It’s not uncommon for some of these Bulldog builders to get jobs right out of high school because of the high demand in Colorado’s construction trade industry.

“Some of the students can come out making 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars a year because of the need,” said Rivas.

“Eventually, I want it to where there’s a line standing outside the door of kids who maybe…a four-year institution is not an option, or if they really want to hit the ground running coming right out of high school and start working,” added Frates.

Rivas agreed.

“Oh, I hope it can grow and grow and grow,” she said.

See the JPS-TV version of this story below or here.

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