Not Sure About a Career Path? Consider a Skilled Trade!

By Becky Cousins
April 21, 2022

Not sure about a career path?  Consider a skilled trade!

Three years ago, a West Springfield High School freshman attended an interactive, hands-on information session to learn more about working in the electrical field, and that one presentation inspired him to go down a path that would change his high school experience. 

Today, Jonathan Ramos-Alverez is a high school senior who is a crew leader in his Electrician Level 3 class at Edison Academy.  Edison Academy is one of several vocational and career academies offered in FCPS for students who prefer hands-on courses.  Jonathan recently returned to West Springfield High School to help give the same presentation that inspired him to become an electrician, as well as presenting at Hayfield and Justice high schools, to hopefully inspire other students to consider going into a skilled trade.  

In 2019, Jonathan participated in a work-based learning activity where he listened to a master electrician and two Electrical Level 2 students talk about exciting career opportunities as an electrician, that included completing an activity to set up a single pole circuit.  That master electrician was Joe Wolfe, the instructor of the Electrical & Construction Engineering class at Edison Academy.  Jonathan immediately signed up for his class and started taking it his sophomore year.  He quickly became a top student and is now one of the select few who are in the Electrician Level 3 class as a senior.   Through his classes at Edison Academy, Jonathan will be able to begin his career as a second-year apprentice and is on his way to his goal of becoming a master electrician. 

Jonathan shared that one of the things that he remembers about Mr. Wolfe’s presentation his freshman year is how much he enjoyed completing the wiring activity because it helped him realize he was good at it.  This supplemental activity kit was created by two Electrician Level 2 students (Aaron White and Nathan Abbott (WSHS Class of 2019), Mr. Wolfe and Rebecca Cousins, WSHS Employment and Transition Representative.  Mrs. Cousins noted that despite having some dynamic career guest speakers in the past, that the students would lose interest after about 15 minutes of listening, so she wrote a grant to create hands-on career activities.

This project was funded by Educate Fairfax, formerly known as the Foundation for Fairfax County.  Part of the grant was that it was to be used with other schools, and despite an almost 2-year pause to in-person gatherings due to the pandemic, this year Mr. Wolfe and Jonathan were able to go to three high schools (West Springfield, Justice and Hayfield) with this presentation. 

The skilled trades are great career options for students and in high demand.  Apprenticeships allow students to learn through real-life, practical experiences while receiving an education at the same time.  Those in the skilled trades learn practical and useful skills and acquire less student loan debt.  Tradesmen jobs also pay well, and people can often earn a considerable salary right away.   There is a huge demand for skilled tradespeople right now.