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Talent Talk: February 2020

Garrett High School's Construction Trades Program Builds Strong Futures for Students and Community

Published February 24, 2020 by Amber Robinson, Communications Coordinator for Indiana Office of Career Connections and Talent

Building a house from the ground up requires a substantial amount of knowledge and skill; each step of the construction process requires a certain level of expertise. As employers struggle to find skilled individuals for the job, trade skills have become a hot commodity in today’s labor market.

Garrett High School in northeast Indiana is helping to close the trade skills gap while creating opportunities for students with its Construction Trades Program. The program enables students to learn in-demand skills through hands-on, real-life experience and offers the opportunity to earn National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and college credit through Ivy Tech Fort Wayne.

In August 2019, Garrett High School was awarded a State Earn and Learn (SEAL) certification from the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship (OWBLA), which is housed under the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. SEAL programs are structured, scalable programs with embedded industry certifications, focused on teaching in-demand skills through collaborative partnerships to meet employer needs.

"We really do a deep dive and find out what skill sets are needed by the employer and build the program around that, taking into account that we're going to look at high school credit, dual credit for postsecondary institutions, as well as embed as many industry certifications and licensing requirements into those," said OWBLA Executive Director Darrel Zeck.

Chad Sutton, director of career development at Garrett High School, has worked diligently to connect the program with more than 40 local businesses, which has created additional job shadowing, mentoring, internship and employment opportunities for his students.

Developing these collaborative partnerships also resulted in the procurement of one of the first school-owned subdivision in the nation. In December 2019, Garrett High School broke ground on the Brennan Estates subdivision consisting of nine residential sites just east of campus. 

Two seniors enrolled in the Construction Trades Program, Brandon Gater and Calvin Gardner, took a quick break to answer some questions about their experience in the Construction Trades Program:

  1. What project has been your favorite on the Brennan Property?

Calvin: I came in toward the end of the project, but my first experience was installing the plank flooring and installing trim and doors. It was my first experience with construction, and I fell in love with it.

  1. Why did you join the program?

Brandon: I was really interested in engineering and architecture; I thought it was a great way to get some practical experience. Now I realize I can work as a carpenter for Weigand Construction and follow my dreams of being a project manager!

  1. What is your dream job?

Brandon: To work for Weigand Construction, work toward my journeyman's license and get an engineering degree. All while working at Weigand Construction!

Calvin: Finish my journeyman's license and complete my construction management degree and be a foreman, supervisor and eventually a superintendent for Weigand Construction.

  1. How will you celebrate CTE month?

Both: Go to work and enjoy every second of it! (As they both laughed).

  1. What advice would you give to students coming into school and industry?

Calvin: Give construction a shot; you might love it! There is a lot of cool programming going on in Garrett High School; you’re going to be a lot farther ahead than other people if you love what you’re doing!

  1. What advice would you offer industry professionals about engaging with students?

Brandon: I want the industry professionals to realize all of us students are the future workforce; come meet us, get to know us. There are a lot of us with good work ethics and want to find the skill that we love.

"This SEAL adds more credibility to what we are trying to accomplish," said Sutton. "It tells our industry partners that we are serious about skill development for our students. We all realize the opportunities in industry regarding the lack of skilled labor. When a student can achieve hands-on skill development in an area they are interested in and integrate academics into that vocational experience you have just helped that student create passion."

See Brandon and Calvin in action in this Garrett High School State Earn and Learn video:

Learn more about how SEAL and other work-based learning programs are providing opportunities to both the youth and adult populations while skilling up Indiana’s workforce at