Poll Shows Strong Backing for Increased Trade Classes in Los Angeles High Schools

A recent study conducted among voters, parents, and students in Los Angeles County reveals strong backing for the expansion of skilled trades education in public high schools. The majority of respondents, over 80%, believe that trade classes can enhance students’ readiness for a career, with many seeing value for both college-bound and non-college-bound high schoolers.

The survey, which targeted over 1,000 registered voters, parents, and students in L.A. County, specifically focused on groups disproportionately affected by educational inequities, such as Black, Latino, and immigrant communities. Additionally, there were two student and two parent focus groups organized. The initiative was sponsored by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, an organization founded by the Harbor Freight Tools creator to amplify skilled trades courses in high schools nationwide.

Despite being the most populous county in the U.S., less than 20% of public high schools in L.A. County’s 80 districts offer trade programs. The dwindling presence of skilled trades classes over the past few decades has marginalized their importance, mainly catering to students not inclined towards attending college. However, approximately 70% of advocates for expanding and funding these courses believe they can also aid in preparing students for higher education.

“Incorporating skilled trades into high school curricula is our ultimate goal,” states Belen Vargas, the senior director of Los Angeles County Programs at Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. The program in L.A. County provides financial support to schools offering trade classes, like La Mirada High School and Port of Los Angeles High School, and endorses mobile programs that don’t depend on a dedicated classroom or on-campus equipment, facilitating afterschool, weekend, and summer engagements. The organization is actively urging industry, labor, and education leaders to back and finance the expansion of these classes in L.A.

Vargas emphasizes that students in the focus groups acknowledged the significance of construction jobs for local economies and neighborhoods.

“The younger participants in the focus group expressed a desire to contribute to careers that enhance their community. They eloquently described witnessing substantial projects being developed in their vicinity, understanding the positive impact on the community, and aspiring to be part of such projects,” Vargas shares.

Several welding, plumbing, and other trades that are in high demand are facing a scarcity of skilled workers. Brent Tuttle, a welding instructor at La Mirada High School, highlights the growing need for more construction workers, particularly with Los Angeles gearing up to host the 2028 Olympics.

Tuttle, with 24 years of experience in teaching welding and 14 years at La Mirada, emphasizes the changing perception towards trade classes. As students and parents become more aware of the promising income and intellectual demands of trade professions like auto mechanic, the old stereotypes are slowly dissipating.

He underlines that students acquiring these skills in high school can potentially earn six-figure salaries within five years, surpassing the income of many college graduates facing substantial debts. Tuttle notes that some of his students, initially headed for college, eventually discovered a better fit in the trades industry.

Followed by images and a video, the rewrite continues.

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