Episode 65 | Building the Future of the Trades

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The decision to attend trade school and career training programs during and after high school has become more popular in the latest generation to enter the workforce.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, enrollment rates for trade school programs rose 19.3% from 2021 to 2022, indicating that young students are continuing to seek higher education opportunities from institutions other than traditional four-year universities.

Area 31

“The opportunities we provide can turn into full-time employment,” said Construction Trades Teacher Billy O’Neal of Area 31 Career Center.

Area 31, a trade school in Indianapolis, Indiana, hosts close to 30 programs that range from education and human services to construction and manufacturing. The construction trades program offers 30 students from 11 school districts a two-year course providing textbook-focused and hands-on instruction.

“We take juniors and seniors from the surrounding high schools, and programs like these help students have a basic understanding of what it takes to work in their desired field,” added ‘O Neal.

Area 31 students also gain skills working on unique projects outside of the classroom such as building affordable housing through a partnership with Indy Gateway.

Indy Gateway

Indy Gateway is a community and economic development organization on the west side of Indianapolis. With focus points on quality of life, infrastructure, economic development, and affordable housing, the main goal of Indy Gateway is to make the west side an area where families can thrive.

Based on a report by the Department of Metropolitan Development in Indianapolis, of the approximately 7,500 regulated affordable housing units in the city, 992 units will reach the end of their mandated affordability periods by the end of 2026.

“Affordable housing is a serious issue in Indianapolis, and it’s one that Indy Gateway is trying to help overcome for first-time homebuyers,” said Indy Gateway Executive Director Lisa Bentley. “Having these students be a part of the solution is really important for us.” 

Revitalizing the Community 

In 2016, Indy Gateway teamed up with Area 31 to tackle the task of revitalizing the local community through building houses in underserved West Indianapolis. 

“Indy Gateway helped our program by giving students the opportunity to build homes from the ground up and give back to their communities,” said O’Neal. 

But for the students to succeed, it was essential that they have all the materials they needed on the construction site to build the homes.

“Material donations are huge for us because we have a strict budget we have to work with every year; without donations, projects like this would not be possible,” added O’Neal.

That’s where City Electric Supply (CES) entered the picture. 

CES Donates Material

“I formed a relationship with Area 31 and Indy Gateway through Sergeant Bentley, Lisa Bentley’s husband,” said CES Indianapolis South Branch Manager Christopher Keen. “He’d come into the store that I worked at for years and bought some supplies and asked me if there was anything we could do to help the program out.”

“When Chris presented this opportunity to get involved with Area 31 and Indy Gateway, I was instantly intrigued,” said CES District Manager Doug Hornback. “City Electric Supply was new to Indianapolis. So, helping get our name out there and promoting the trades to the young generation is great.”

CES provided mainly rough-in material, Romex, nail-on boxes, and other essentials needed in the first stages of building a home. 

“It’s a huge advantage for the students to get their hands on material before they get into the field. There’s a lot of things that books can’t teach you, and hands-on training is very valuable,” added Keen.

Creating New Opportunities

CES team members Keen and Hornback also took the time to visit Area 31 to witness how their contributions helped the project come to life.

“This is the first year I’ve gotten to see the material being used by the students,” added Keen. “I think it’s really neat to see the donation actually applied, where it helps, and where it’s actually going.”

“This is my first time at Area 31. Teaching our future generation of the electrical industry with the state-of-the-art facility they have here is very impressive,” added Hornback.

And CES hopes to continue partnering with Area 31 and Indy Gateway to provide even more opportunities in building the future of the trades.

“What City Electric Supply hopes to provide is a head start for students to be successful as they enter the trade industry,” said Keen.

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