College students aren’t the only ones getting on-the-job training at the Measure K Jordan High School project site.
This past year a dozen high school seniors from Jordan High and Jordan Plus got an up-close look at construction trades through a free program known as STAR (Successful Training and Apprenticeship Recruiting).
Started in 2015 by Project Director Kris Nordbak of McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., the after-school program has been successful due to strong industry and community support, according to Nordbak.
“Fortunately our biggest supporters are volunteers,” he added, crediting Alex Wright of McCarthy, Andrew Mayorga of the Laborers' International Union of North America, and Joel Davis of the Long Beach Fire Department.
The program has shown dozens of students career paths such as skilled laborer, carpenter, ironworker, firefighter and the military. Several graduates have landed apprenticeships with construction companies.
“If someone doesn’t have a company sponsoring them, it could take a year or more for an applicant to enter an apprenticeship,” said Nordbak. “By participating in STAR and being hired by one of our industry partners, a student can skip to the front of the line and start earning over $17 an hour right after high school.”
For seniors like Victor Velazquez, who weren't sure if they wanted to go to college right away, learning about the construction trade presented a good post-graduation option. "I learned a lot about the importance of communication and getting along with others in the program," he said.
For others, such as Krissia Flores, STAR was an opportunity to get real life experience in a physically and mentally demanding field. "I want to pursue a career as a medic in the U.S. Army, so the challenges I met in the program helped me gain confidence about my own abilities," she said.
The program is currently open only to JHS and JP students, but in the future they might offer it to seniors from other LBUSD high schools.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from other school districts as well, and as far as I know this is the only program of its kind,” said Nordbak.
Besides learning technical aspects of the trades, participants are required to participate in strength, agility and endurance training during the twice-weekly sessions. Many unions require potential employees to pass rigorous physical tests.
At Jordan High, the physical training for STAR is supervised by a teacher provided by the school district.
Creating a skilled workforce is priority for the industry because it is becoming increasingly difficult for construction companies to find qualified people to backfill as current employees retire.
“This is a win-win for students and the construction industry,” Nordbak said. “We strongly encourage more individuals to look into the construction field while they are still in high school, so they can start planning their future careers, whether it is immediately after high school or college.”