Buffalo High School teacher Clark Chesbro and the Johnson County School District board deserve kudos for their forward thinking.

Last week, Chesbro approached the board and requested $25,000 for his construction technology I and II classes to build a micro-house – a fully functional 200-square-foot home.

Chesbro said that throughout the several-months-long project, his students would hone their construction, plumbing and electrical skills, and by the end of the year, the district would have a micro-house that could be auctioned off for a profit.

A micro-house constructed by a Casper high school sold last year for over $60,000 – more than enough to pay back the district. Excess funds would be saved for the school’s vocational-technical education program.

The board voted unanimously to award Chesbro and his students the funds. And by doing so, the board showed that it cares about the future of all of its students – not just the ones who are college bound.

Far too often, high school students get the message that college is the only and best option after graduation. Yes, it’s an excellent option for many students. But a four-year degree is not practical for every student, and the world needs plumbers, welders, cosmetologists, mechanics and bookkeepers just as it needs CPAs, teachers, computer programmers and doctors.

David Curry, director of career and technical education at the Milton Hershey School once said, “Sometimes success for certain students doesn’t involve sitting in a classroom for four more years.”

There are other options, like developing skills in the trades.

Right now, the demand for skilled construction workers is far outpacing the supply. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

And as that demand increases, so do the wages. According to the May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates for Wyoming, construction supervisors earn an average annual salary of $74,540. The average annual salary for electricians in Wyoming is $57,460, followed by plumbers at $51,000, carpenters at $48,940 and sheet metal workers at $42,590. Construction managers earn an average annual salary of $101,000.

The problem is that while the jobs are there, the people with the skills to do them are not.

The best way to learn the trades is by doing them, and Chesbro and the school district are providing students with the opportunity to graduate with a skill and to start earning money right away. They are setting students up for success, and that’s an endeavor we can all get behind.

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