Architecture and Construction Careers academies kick off first school year
The inaugural freshman class of the Architecture and Construction Careers Academies at Richardson and Lake Highlands High Schools is under way.

This group of students will be the first to graduate four years from now with the new curriculum that includes 60 hours of dual credit. They will exit high school with an associate’s degree and be ready to join the workforce. Compensation for these new hires is expected to be in the mid-$30,000 range, and they will not have any debt from school.

The Richardson Chamber of Commerce served as a facilitator bringing together future employers and educators to identify skill needs and develop appropriate curricula.

“Like most districts in the 1970s and 1980s, RISD high school curriculum was focused on getting students ready for a four-year university,” said Drew Snow, vice president of member services for the chamber. “Our student demographics have changed dramatically, and the district has moved to a new mission – provide training for every Richardson graduate to make a good living. To that end, the district began creating academies in cosmetology, culinary, automotive, and nursing and med-tech.”

The architecture and construction academy is coordinated through North Lake College of the Dallas County Community College District. A new construction lab at Lake Highlands will provide even more support.

The chamber began its partnership by meeting 20 companies in the construction and skilled labor industries at a working lunch with the school district, Richland College, Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) and National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Attendees included repair companies, home builders and commercial contractors. “We all are finding it difficult hire qualified employees,” said Kirk Wilson of Dean Air Conditioning and Heating. “But we’re excited to work with RISD and their Career and Technical Education program.”

About 25 percent of RISD graduates do not go to college, said Masud Shamsid-Deen, executive director of RISD’s career and technical education. “We need to provide options so that every student graduating from an RISD high school has the skills to earn a living wage.”

RISD has already established training for automotive tech, cosmetology and culinary arts. Recently nursing and med tech was added allowing students to be immediately eligible for hire at Richardson Methodist Medical Centers and other full-service facilities.

Outcomes of the meeting included establishing a two-track course of action with part-time hiring of non-skilled high school students to work in areas like job prep, clean-up, etc. At the same time, curriculum for HVAC, electrician, plumbing, carpentry and more is being developed.

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