School counselors from the region take part in a workshop on trade industries – Saratogian

Nancy DeStefano, WSWHE BOCES Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Programs, welcomes school counselors to the training workshop. (Melissa Schuman – MediaNews Group)

GANSEVOORT, NY — More than 75 school counselors gathered at the BOCES Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (WSWHE) Conference Center for a retail industry awareness workshop.

Presented by the Capital Region Workforce Development Coalition in partnership with WSWHE BOCES and the New York State School Counselor Association (NYSSCA), the workshop aimed to provide school counselors with more resources and tools to use when It’s about discussing plans with students after graduation.

Whether it’s college or direct career plans, the most important thing is for students to understand that they have options.

“Our goal today is to educate advisors about undergraduate opportunities that are not the traditional four-year colleges,” said Jaymes White, associate principal of Tamarac Secondary and regional governor for the NYSSCA board of directors. “As craftsmen are leaving the workforce, there is an enormous gap that needs to be filled. There are great opportunities in the retail industry to hire students who can learn hands-on without crippling them with debt.”

White continued, “One benefit of trades is that you can get started right away. You do this work on the first day. Maybe you will also be paid for it, with internships or apprenticeships or part-time jobs. You don’t always have these opportunities during your studies. It is so important that students know their options. Knowledge is power, and if students don’t have that power, how can they make the best informed decisions for their future?”

The Capital Region Workforce Development Coalition was founded by Curtis Lumber in partnership with the Saratoga Builders Association. The purpose of the coalition is to encourage people to consider a career in the construction industry by raising awareness of the benefits it brings. The coalition began with a Saratoga County focus and has now evolved into a multi-county effort.

Doug Ford, chairman of the coalition and vice president of sales and purchasing at Curtis Lumber, hoped the workshop would be the first of many.

“This is exciting,” said Ford. “Our goal is to help counselors better understand the professions. We recognize that there was a lack and we try to improve it. They will take many tools with them today to use in their schools.”

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Echoing White, Ford added, “We want students to have all the opportunities that are given to them. It’s all about the students and what they want to do. We’ll never stop a student from going to college, but we want them to understand that there’s a lot more to the craft than just a guy with a hammer in a ditch.

“You have your project managers, you have your designers, there are so many different paths that a career in retail can take. I really want to commend Curtis Lumber for stepping up and taking this initiative, they have done so much good work in raising awareness of the importance of careers in retail.”

Also in attendance were Assembly members Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) and Mary Beth Walsh (R-Ballston), who offered their support.

“That’s something we’ve talked about for a really long time,” Walsh commented. “It’s a great topic. I keep hearing about the importance of a skilled workforce.”

The workshop consisted of many speakers presenting various aspects of the retail industry. Some presented tools school counselors can use to help students explore trading careers, some discussed key talking points about trading industries, and some shared testimonies of their success in trading.

Ford addressed the question “Why trades?” In summary, the answer is a plethora of benefits to be found in a trading career. These include job security, high pay, and a generally high demand for a skilled workforce that can take an employee anywhere, including the world.

Ford also acknowledged that awareness of trading careers needs to be addressed more, especially in today’s society where inclusion and equality are priorities.

“In the early days we did a terrible job educating schools about the professions and it’s at our expense,” he said. “It is important for students to be aware of these opportunities. It is just as important that girls get into the trade as much as men.”

Jim Sasko from Teakwood Builders spoke about some of the many misconceptions surrounding the trading industry.

“Any time a student looks at their geometry teacher and says, ‘I’ll never need that,’ — a misunderstanding,” Sasko said. “Your fundamental skills in a trading career come from your middle school and high school curriculum. You need math, you need English, you need good communication skills. The notion that one has to choose between college and a career is a misconception. Professions and universities are not exclusive. In fact, you can get into a trade through college.

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“We have to understand that college isn’t for everyone. It’s certainly important to many, but not all, and explaining this to parents can be a challenge. When a child is interested in a job, the biggest resistance often comes from the parents who don’t have all the information or don’t understand what a job in the job can entail.”

Sasko later commented that the key to overcoming these misunderstandings is time.

“It’s a learned process for people to realize that there are more opportunities in commerce and a great opportunity to be known as a needed asset, more like a pedestal of our society,” he noted.

Gabe Johnson, Shea Grignon and Julie Maleski-Putzel all gave personal testimonies about their experiences as women in successful retail careers.

Johnson, a commercial diver who works underwater, said, “A career in craft can really take you anywhere. Children should know that they can enter the world of work quickly and start life quickly.”

Grignon, a construction worker, and Maleski-Putzel, an interior designer, wanted to raise awareness of the importance and necessity of women in crafts.

“You can be a mom, you can be petite, you can be a woman and you can be successful in this industry,” Maleski-Putzel said.

“I work by hand. It’s very important that women understand that we are needed just as much as men are,” agreed Grignon. “It’s also important to get the advisors to understand that this is an option. We want people to realize that we’re doing more than just swinging a hammer.”

“I would like to clear up objections, especially from parents,” said Maleski Putzel. “Often they just don’t have the information to understand the opportunities available. There are many different tools out there, and technology has advanced enough in the craft to allow everyone — not just women — to do their jobs in the industry more efficiently. It helps break these stereotypes that the only people who can trade are big, strong men.

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“The balance between family and private life has been turned upside down. There are more women working and when it comes to equity and inclusion, we want people to understand that it’s a much more welcoming and open industry.”

Tools and resources made available to school counselors included the Expertise Project, which offers virtual reality tours of industrial labs and construction sites; Zippia, a comprehensive job search website that outlines the steps required to get a job in any trading career, with detailed descriptions of job openings in those careers; union training programs where students learn and work at the same time; and an electronic resource guide that consultants can access at any time for a wealth of trading-related information.

“Hopefully there will be many more workshops like this in the future,” Nancy DeStefano, WSWHE BOCES Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Programs, told school counselors. “We hope it’s worth it for you.”

Dozens of school counselors attended the workshop hosted by the Capital Region Workforce Development Coalition and WSWHE BOCES. (Melissa Schuman – MediaNews Group) Dozens of school counselors attended the workshop hosted by the Capital Region Workforce Development Coalition and WSWHE BOCES. (Melissa Schuman – MediaNews Group) Patrick Pomerville of the Capital Region Workforce Development Coalition speaks to school counselors during the training workshop. (Melissa Schuman – MediaNews Group) Jim Sasko spoke at the workshop for school counselors on overcoming misunderstandings in the retail industry. (Melissa Schuman – MediaNews Group) Doug Ford, Regional Vice President of Sales at Curtis Lumber Co. and Chair of the Capital Region Workforce Development Coalition, speaks about the importance of retail careers. (Melissa Schuman – MediaNews Group) One tool available to school counselors when discussing commercial careers with students is a virtual reality simulator provided by Expertise Project. (Melissa Schuman – MediaNews Group) Shea Grignon and Julie Maleski-Putzel gave testimonies of their success in the retail industry. (Melissa Schuman – MediaNews Group)