School of the Week: Randolph Career and Technical Center, where students BUILD their own futures!

When Ricardo Smith, program manager of Electricity Construction at Randolph Career and Technical Center, heard about Mike Ilitch’s plan to build a hockey arena and entertainment complex in downtown Detroit, he immediately thought of Randolph’s students… and jobs.

Randolph CTC, which is adjacent to Renaissance High School on a sprawling complex of schools on Detroit’s Northwest side, prepares its students for careers in the construction trades industry. The school offers courses in plumbing and pipefitting, heating ventilation and air-conditioning, electricity, painting and decorating, carpentry, masonry, computer-aided drafting and interior furnishings.

“What students learn here is not something to fall back on,” Smith said. “It’s a career. There are very wealthy people who have retired from a career in construction trades.”

And the time is right for a student seeking to enter the field, he said. According to recent news reports, the construction trades industry is experiencing a shortage of workers to fill jobs that are opening as the home-building sector comes back to life.

That’s where career and technical schools like Randolph prove so valuable, said Director Cynthia Hough.

Randolph students, who come from throughout Metro Detroit, gain hands-on experience in construction in collaboration with local businesses, industry leaders and the community, leading many students to internships and careers. The school also has articulation agreements with colleges and universities so that courses at Randolph transfer to credits at those institutions toward two- and four-year degrees.

Randolph CTC Brochure for 2012-13

Students spend half their day in a traditional high school, taking required classes needed for graduation. The other half is spent at the career technical center working with specialized equipment and receiving instruction to prepare for their occupational selection.

In each classroom on any given day, students are busy learning skills that can translate easily into college or a career, said Hough, while sitting in a classroom that her students recently retrofitted to become a new multi-purpose room. The painting, the electrical work and new lighting, the new carpet and the glass block windows were all installed by Randolph’s students.

“Our programs give students hope,” Hough said. “They ensure the students are marketable when they leave here.”

Randolph, like many career and technical schools (once called vocational schools) suffer from the misconception that their course offerings don’t lead to college, and therefore won’t translate to high-paying jobs. Neither is true. In fact, many of the school’s students go on to college, and the construction trades jobs, including architecture, often require rigorous math or English skills, Hough said, adding that recruiters routinely seek students from Randolph to fill their workforce.

See a video here: Randolph CTC: Where students are building their futures!

The skills they learn are immediately useful, Hough said.

In the Interior Furnishings, Production and Services class, students were recently busy at work designing single-level and two-story homes. During their courses, they also meet with a “client” to discuss and select furnishings and fabric, and to develop a budget. The average earning potential for students in that field is between $27,008 and $43,976 a year for an interior designer and between $34,347 and $45,680 for an architect, said Rhonda Roman, program manager for interior furnishings.

In the plumbing and pipefitting class, students recently concentrated intently on how to solder and sweat pipes, connecting them to a hot water heater. And in the masonry course, they worked to craft a brick fireplace archway and install glass block windows.

“Construction jobs are high-paying jobs,” said student DeVaunte McKinney, a senior. “It’s a good skill to learn and have on my resume.”

In addition to learning the fundamentals of heating and cooling, students in the HVAC courses are partnering with Historic Fort Wayne to bring an officer’s quarters building to current code, using only rehabbed materials, through the Randolph Historic Preservation Trades Project. The project is a collaboration with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) and the City of Detroit Historic District Advisory Board. The intent behind the project is to provide hands-on classroom experience in the areas of Engineering, Manufacturing and Technology through the preservation of historic buildings.

In the Cisco Networking Academy, students learn the whole spectrum of how a computer works – from its operation, to trouble-shooting and functionality. Students follow up with exploring the intricacies of how the Internet works, networking and mobile devices.

Like Smith, Will Kelsau, Special Instructor for the Cisco Networking Academy, looks at his students – and looks around Detroit – and sees job potential. As Compuware adds more positions downtown and companies like Twitter open new offices in Detroit, Kelsau thinks of his students and their marketability.

“Hopefully Detroit will be the next Silicon Valley hub,” he said. “Randolph is preparing students for that.”

Something you didn’t know:

As part of the Detroit School Garden Collaborative, sponsored by the DPS Office of School Nutrition, over 40 school sites across the district have raised garden beds, rain water collection systems, gravel walkways and training centers. The beds are being constructed across the district by students from both Randolph Career and Technical Center and Drew Transition Center.

Something else you didn’t know:

Detroit Public Schools’ Randolph Career & Technical Center in 2011 broke ground on a house that is being built on the school site as a service-learning project.

The school’s students have built and installed everything from the ground-up, including the sub-floor and floor, interior and exterior walls, ductwork, electrical work, plumbing and more for the ranch style, three-bedroom home that will be moved to a permanent location upon completion. The house will be donated to a third party. Two houses previously built by Randolph students are fully constructed and occupied by homeowners on Detroit’s West side.

And one more thing you didn’t know:

Randolph CTC offers Adult Education Courses in construction trades for the low price of $350 a semester for the two-year programs.

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