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LCHBA, LCPS join forces to bring trades back to schools

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There was a time when nearly every high school girl took home economics and nearly every high school boy took shop class.

Over the course of a couple of generations, though, varying depending on the part of the country, these classes shrank considerably or disappeared altogether. Here in Las Cruces, builders and contractors are facing a serious shortfall of people with qualified skills in the trades they need. Certainly, a contributing factor to that shortfall is the decline of high school and middle school shop classes.

This has been a concern for some time among the Las Cruces Homebuilders Association, who have been hammering away at this issue for a while. On Saturday, June 29, they were quite literally hammering away.

On that day, several members of the LCHBA, with saws, crowbars and sledge hammers in hand, broke down walls, stairs, floors and other additions to a room at Oñate High School. Years ago, the room had served as a shop class, but over the last two decades, the room has been relegated to storage.

When classes open Aug. 8, there will be a shop class at OHS.

John Arguello will be the instructor for building construction and trades, the start of what the LCHBA and others hope will be a strong movement toward creating new learning opportunities for local students.

“The LCHBA has been a driving force behind this effort,” Arguello said. “They are outstanding partners.

“There is definitely a need for trades people,” Arguello said. “So many currently doing these jobs are right at retirement age.”

Nicole Black, executive director of the LCHBA, said 140 students are enrolled for the classes at Oñate. The next step will be a school inspection, to ensure everything in the classroom is up to code.

Carrie Hernandez Coordinator for College and Career Readiness for Las Cruces Public Schools said the system’s physical plant staff have been a valuable resource as the project has progressed.

LCHBA member Tyson Brown, general manager at Foxworth Galbraith, said he and other members will be working to provide equipment and materials at low- or no-cost where possible.

Arguello, a New Mexico State University graduate, previously was an automotive instructor at Mayfield High School, the only other high school in the LCPS district with these types of hands-on trade programs. Going back further, he was an executive director with Habitat for Humanity.

“John is also an NCCER (National Center for Construction Education & Research) certified instructor/trainer,” Hernandez said.

It is exciting to see these opportunities return to our community, and kudos to the LCHBA for driving this, and to LCPS for supporting it.

I can envision a Las Cruces in the not-too-distant future, where hundreds of young men and women, whose first introduction to construction, plumbing, electrical and other trades came at school, and who are creating important work and important business expansion in our community.

Las Cruces continues to be a growing, expanding community, but if we don’t have the people with the skills to help it continue growing and expanding, we will reach a standstill.

I, for one, look forward to the progress on this vital effort, and the fulfillment of the LCHBA mission to bring skilled trades back, one school at a time in Las Cruces.

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