When employers and skilled trade schools have a healthy relationship, everyone benefits. Employers hire trade school students, but they’re also vital to designing curriculum, staying on top of industry trends, demonstrating pathways to students, and donating materials.
Yet — in our survey, we found it was often unclear to employers how they should get involved with their local trade schools. In fact, some employers confessed they didn’t always know local trade schools were operating in their area.
Here are four ways employers can best work with trade schools.
1. Get Involved Early
“Unfortunately, [some employers] think if they call in April that they can hire their May graduates,” says Olaf Wick of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. “You need to start in October, courting, to have any luck filling positions.”
Most important – get involved early in the school year, not just in May. By having a few touches in the fall semester, schools and employers will be primed for a fruitful Spring. A great way to do this is to facilitate shop visits for students. Shop visits get the ball rolling on student-employer relationships and increase student buy-in by showing them what they are working towards.
“[Employers] are all getting smart: they call early,” adds Barry Knight at Rogers Heritage High School in Arkansas.
2. Hire Part Time
Hiring students part-time benefits everyone. Students get real-world experience to complement their classroom learning, and employers get a good sense for whether that student’s a fit for their shop well before making a full-time commitment. Many students need to work to make ends meet anyway, and so part-time work at a shop creates an ideal situation for them.
“What works is employers who hire part-time,” says Wick. “They can take a look and see how they work. Students can see what it’s like. Most are employable after their 1st semester.”
Many schools function at the limits of their budget and can use all the help they can get with additional materials and equipment. Employers can alleviate this pain by donating equipment, materials and funds — just make sure it’s the current equipment, not the old stuff you’re not using anymore.
“I get a $5K budget for materials, which essentially covers the disposable things. I spent close to $70K, because I got $65K in sponsorships, grants, etc,” says Instructor Luke Becker of Braham High School in Minnesota.
4. Join the industry board
Every school has a board of advisors from local industry. This board often meets just twice a year, but these meetings are crucial to designing curriculum that’s up-to-date with today’s industry needs. Ever hear an employer complain that today’s graduates just don’t have the skills they need? Tell that employer to get on their local trade school’s industry board. That’s where these decisions are made.