Waite High School students A.J. Bertram and Boston Demecs admit they had some trouble adjusting to high school because they weren't as academically gifted as other classmates.

That is, until they were introduced to the carpentry program at their school as juniors and successfully became part of its unique School to Work program.

Now a senior, A.J. is earning $12 an hour working three hours each school afternoon with the Speiker Co.,helping to build the King Road Branch Library at the corner of King Road and Sylvania Avenue. Boston is working with Lakeside Interior Contractors on the sports complex for Perrysburg schools and can't wait for his upcoming graduation so he can join the carpentry union and eventually become a foreman.

Three other students ~ Amberlee Hunsaker, Chris McMillan and Zach Camp - are also being paid to work on job sites, looking forward to graduation and full-time jobs.

There are 10 contractors that have hired 17 students from the carpentry class over the last five years.

The School to Work program is just one example of the proactive approach being taken by the leaders of the Career Tech program within Toledo Public Schools, a program that offers students 31 career paths to explore while still in high school.

“We are trying to do a better job of aligning students with their skill set and their career interest, so the emphasis on education is on career development now,” Tom Dimitrew, director of agriculture, construction and engineering technologies, told The Blade. “We’ve sort of blindly sent students down a college-only path as a marker of success and that … is not a guarantee.”

The mission of TPS - to produce competitive college and career ready graduates through a rigorous curriculum - is one that Dr. Romules Durant, CEO/superintendent, is passionate about, and developing partnerships between area businesses and students is key for him.

The reason, he says, is providing students with jobs in good-paying industries will help Toledo develop a vibrant middle class again. His drive to offer students a wide variety of Career Tech options stems from a visit he made to Germany in 2014, when he saw first hand an apprenticeship system in which major corporations pour millions of dollars into the training of their young workers.

“Among people ages 16 to 24, only 7 percent of them are unemployed,” Dr. Durant said shortly after his visit. “Everyone is contributing to the local economy. They can pay for themselves; choice becomes an option.”

It is a message that is being eagerly received by local companies such as Lakeside Interior. Randy Hayes, the company's safety director and an enthusiastic supporter of Dr. Durant and students like Boston, is a firm believer.

"I was one of those kids and I found this and I have a nice career," he says.

To learn more about the 31 Career Tech programs that TPS offers - and to fill out an interest form - students and their families should go to the Career Tech tab under Schools at www.tps.org or they can click here: http://www.tps.org/school/career-tech.

To read more about Waite's School to Work program, click here for a Blade report: http://www.toledoblade.com/Education/2016/05/06/TPS-construction-courses-build-new-skills.html or here for a Channel 11 report: http://www.wtol.com/story/31905568/tps-school-to-work-program-gets-students-career-ready

Posted on May 13, 2016