MIDLAND, Pa. (KDKA) — Carpenters, plumbers and mechanics are the people who keep our society going day in and day out. The skilled labor they supply is in high demand across America.
Simply put, there aren’t enough people who want to do those jobs anymore. But a new high school in Beaver County is trying to turn that around.
In the shadow of Midland’s industrial past and present, its future is preparing to keep our society running.
“I’m learning how to actually do stuff. I’m making mistakes. I’m learning from those and improving my skills,” said sophomore Nolan Saxe.
Saxe says traditional high school wasn’t helping him become the best version of himself. He says his classes weren’t preparing him for what he really wants to do after graduation.
“I know I’m not going to use that. That’s nothing of interest to me but I had it scheduled to fill in the gaps.” Saxe said.
So he decided to do something about it. He signed up to be a part of the inaugural class at Midland Innovation and Technology Charter School. Now, with nearly one year under his belt, he says the high school is helping to open more doors and possibilities for him than his former public school ever could’ve.
“It gives me a lot of options and freedoms to pick what I want to do with life,” Saxe said.
Among the classes he’s taken this year are carpentry and aviation, including lessons in flying drones, which helped him get his commercial drone pilot’s license at age 16. He’s already put it to work making money, and hopes to make even more with it.
“The big thing I want to get in is real estate photography. That’s where the money is at. That’s what I want to do,” Saxe said.
Students like Saxe are who the school’s CEO Terrance Smith is looking for. We all remember when nearly all high schools had vocational programs like shop or auto body repair.
“And that all went away, but that was needed in terms of industry,” Smith said.
So MITCS is bringing it back in a highly-concentrated way. This school offers students a variety of courses from traditional fields like nursing and carpentry to more modern ones like forensics and logistics.
Students still have to take core classes to meet state standards, but here they’re able to get more intensive education in their specific field of choice.
The school covers any professional training and certificate testing students need. It has partnerships with companies to help students find jobs after graduation. And it also offers dual enrollment with the Community College of Beaver County for those who need or want college-level courses.
“We’re making that direct connection with industry as well as providing a diploma for graduation,” Smith said.
At the start of the school year, there were 140 students enrolled here. That’s down to 80 now. In some cases, Smith says students wanted to play sports for their home districts and they found going between schools to be too challenging.
Smith and other school leaders are working on addressing that for next year as they hope to expand to 200 students. Smith says he’s hopeful they’ll get there as more students find out about the school and realize what it has to offer them both now and for the rest of their lives.
“To start working on your career in ninth grade, 10th grade, you value your schoolwork a little bit more,” Smith said.
With two more years of school, Nolan Saxe is excited to see what other skills he can add to his toolbelt before graduation day.
“It’s so much more hands-on. It’s free. It gives me the freedom of learning at my own pace,” Saxe said.
And freedom to right the ship of American labor and industry.