The Williamsport Area High School (WAHS) Construction Trades Program has been endorsed by PBA for only 4 short years. A first place win in the Residential Construction Management (RCM) Competition among other successes will show that in such a small span of time, the program has grown to be one of the most successful in the country. WAHS is one of the few institutions in PA to integrate Vocational and Technical programs into a conventional secondary school, with 48 total students enrolled in the 3 levels of the Construction Trades program.
To find out a little bit more about the program and how they’ve achieved such success, PBA interviewed Construction Trades Instructor Randy Williamson (RW) and Head WAHS Principal Brandon Pardoe (BP) to get their take on the past, present, and future of the Construction Trades program. Here’s what they had to say:
What makes the program at WAHS unique?
BP: We are a comprehensive high school located in central PA. A student may pursue a Career/Technical Education (CTE) program of study and still be able to take college preparatory courses and dual enrollment courses in a traditional high school setting.
RW: The reality is that today, academic skills are extremely important in the working world. The IRC, IBC, and NEC codebooks are written on a collegiate reading level, which is proof that literacy and numeracy are huge parts to being successful.
How do you motivate your students to excel in this program and the industry?
RW: I think the initial step is building a relationship with your students. Leading by example is also important – I am still very active in the trade over the summertime. Students appreciate when you are a true professional in the field that you’re teaching in.
What motivated the WAHS staff to get the Construction Trades Program endorsed through PBA?
RW: Every contractor in the state knows the PBA name and what it stands for, and I wanted our program to be part of that. Career and Technical Education teaches technical skills that are in high demand across the country and having this industry certification communicates to potential employers that these students have the necessary skillsets to successfully enter the workforce or college.
What are the advantages to having your program endorsed by PBA?
RW: We have built a great relationship with our local builders association, West Branch Susquehanna BA (WBSBA). They have been a huge asset to the program, as most of the members of my Occupational Advisory Committee are members of WBSBA. Twenty-nine of my students participated in the local Home Show. WBSBA members will also stop in the shop to talk to students, see what we’re up to, and offer their expertise.
What made you want to take a team to the RCM Competition at IBS?
RW: I wanted my students to have the opportunity to experience the more-than-advanced skills that this competition affords. Participation in this competition brings to light the fact that these students are not only being prepared to enter a career, but also college for those with the desire and aptitude.
How did you feel when your team won the competition?
RW: It was awesome! I am so proud of our students and all of the work they did. The work that is involved in these projects is intense, especially for high school students.
What is your vision for the future of this program?
BP: We need to continue to expand our instructional experiences for our students to meet the employability needs for potential employers. We have made successful CTE programming adjustments to make sure students are aware of all available CTE programs.
Anything additional you’d like to mention about WAHS and the Construction Trades Program?
RW: By taking the program at WAHS, I believe we are preparing students for at least two general career pathways: 1) direct employment following high school, and 2) entering college a step ahead of the majority, whether it’s a 2-year Associate’s program or a 4-year Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management.
BP: Traditional CTE emphasis has been on industrial types of programming. Now we have uncovered a need for more programs to support students who have an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
*Photo: WAHS team at the RCM competition with their first place trophy.
To learn more about the comprehensive education that Williamsport Area High School offers, visit their website.
To learn more about PBA’s Endorsed Trade Program, visit www.pbaendorsedtrade.org.