Students have powered on as best they can during the pandemic. Handling remote learning and adjusted teaching methods. Now, some schools are partnering with local industry leaders to help make some classes more hands-on, even while taking classes from home.
"We have several auto-shop classes. Auto shop is completely hands-on, right? Kids need to be in the grease, they need to be on the tools. And so, it's been very difficult. So we've actually had some teachers that actually put together tool kits and checked them out to students where they can tinker with things at home," said Dr. Jamon Peariso, the Director of College and Career Readiness at Visalia Unified School District.
Dr. Peariso says continuing career technical education, also known as CTE, at school has been difficult during remote learning. Danny Corwin, with Harbor Freight Tools, says they're here to help with their Tools for Schools program.
"We wanted to come up with creative ideas to help both the teachers and the students and the parents trying to support their kids. Fortunately, we have a group of incredibly inventive and genius teachers and we wanted to provide them with the tools and other supports to allow them to do what they do best," said Corwin.
Bob Kilmer, an Educational Consultant for Harbor Freight Tools, said in an auto shop tool kit kids would receive "everything from code readers to socket sets to hand wrenches to bolt readers. So, they can continue to do a variety of hands-on projects related to a car and things you could do with a car."
After teaching skilled trades classes at the high school level for 35 years, Bob Kilmer is now an Educational Consultant for Harbor Freight Tools. Harbor Freight's foundation has handed out more than 3,600 tool kits to teachers all across the country.
"The great part about the project was that those 53 teachers in those 12 states got a choice of what they could put in the kit for their particular discipline and the automotive kit is different than the welding kit, which is different than the construction and architecture kit, which is different than the robotics kit or the mega-tronics kit," said Kilmer.
For school districts like Visalia Unified, the kits couldn't have come at a better time.
"There's a lot of companies like that that are coming out with more interactive-type educational tools that do a pretty good job considering the kids are locked in their room or house doing the course. That’s something I’m excited about and we’re utilizing that as much as possible in their pathways," said Dr. Peariso.
For companies like Harbor Freight Tools, these tools are crucial for engaging students in an industry that needs them. Corwin says one in every three skilled trade workers across the country will be retiring within the next ten years. And they don't want the COVID-19 pandemic to slow down efforts to build up a new workforce for the industry.
"We've got to address the pipeline and we've got to ensure young people are exposed to the trades in high school and have a pathway to continue the work that they love, that they’re good at. And be able to contribute to our economy in the future," said Corwin.
Corwin says many skilled trade jobs have been essential during the pandemic and it's exciting to still see students engaging in hands-on work even if they're doing it from home.