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High school students avoiding student debt, finding careers to support a family

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Posted at 7:52 AM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 18:19:32-04

The next generation of America’s trades workers is being trained right now at a time when businesses say they can’t hire them fast enough.

HVAC companies tell News 5 it could take weeks for repair visits because they don’t always have enough workers to handle the calls. The workers they do have can expect to be wooed with better wages, benefits, and continuing education offers just to sweeten the deal.

In an Auburn Career Center HVAC training shop where bent metal and loud noises are the norm, so are high school students who have planned their careers out earlier than most.

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Auburn Career Center students learn trade skills before they graduate high school as a way to get a jump start on a career.

“I wanted to do something that paid well and you could get right out of high school,” said Aiden Lanning. “[HVAC] was very much a necessity.”

“I always knew that I didn’t want to go to college,” said Tim Manseoo, pointing out that his grandfather was an HVAC technician, so he picked the same journey.

Students like Lanning, Manseoo, and Drew McNeil are still in high school and come to the Auburn Career Center as part of their high school experience to learn one of a long list of trades before they graduate.

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Students come to the program during their normal high school days.

“Everyone thinks you have to go to college when you really don’t,” said McNeil.

They often have internships while they train, cutting down the time it’ll take to land an apprenticeship before eventually becoming a full-time journeyman. Starting pay can add up to $60,000 a year which goes even farther considering they are taking on none of the college debt that is weighing down many of their high school peers.

“A lot of the guys were pretty impressed with how much I already knew,” said Manseoo, talking about his internship.

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Auburn Career Center training can lead to internships which can quickly turn into apprenticeships and becoming a journeyman worker.

“It’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish here is provide an environment for students to learn skills that are going to set them up for their life,” said Auburn Career Center Superintendent Dr. Brian Bontempo. “We have more phone calls now than ever before [from local employers]. ‘How do we get in front of your students? How do we have access so we can have those young people come work for us?”

It means graduating students are expecting and getting better wages, benefits, and additional training even after being hired full-time.

Building up Ohio’s workforce has been one of Lt. Gov. Husted’s projects, serving as Governor DeWine’s Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation. TechCred reimburses employers for enrolling employees in programs that can get them new credentials. It’s helped AWT companies cover the cost of the apprenticeship program and just opened its 10th application period in July.

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AWT's apprentice program allows companies to help their employees gain new manufacturing skills so they can do more around the shop, advance in their careers, and earn more money.

TechCred’s success creates more demand for big investment projects like when manufacturers around Mentor and the surrounding community took their own steps to create the next generation of well-trained workers in Northeast Ohio with the skills to work in that industry in the future. Alliance for Working Together (AWT) broke ground on a roughly $3 million Transformation Center, a training facility they’ll use to help train manufacturing workers in Northeast Ohio in the technology they need to know for the next generation of manufacturing jobs.

“These students not only have great skills, they have a little leverage too,” said Dr. Bontempo.

At least partially because they are working in an industry that can’t be outsourced.

“Everybody needs air conditioning in their homes, they need heating in their homes,” said Manseoo.

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