Officials from a new charter school in Northeast Columbus want to give a head start to young people looking to enter the building-industry trades.
The Ohio Construction Academy, set to open this fall near Port Columbus International Airport, will teach a core high school curriculum while offering classroom instruction and hands-on training in carpentry and electricity.
Opening day is Sept. 16. Enrollment is open to all central Ohio students.
The school, which received its charter in May, has been established by the Associated Builders and Contractors, Central Ohio chapter.
The academy hopes to enroll 50 students each in grades 9-11. School officials declined adding a 12th grade this year so students could at least have two years at the academy, said Barton Hacker, head of school and president of the local trade association.
Tuition to the academy is free. Because part of the curriculum is taught online, those who enroll are given a free laptop computer, printer, scanner and access to the Internet. Students also spend time in the classroom and training in the field.
Instructors are licensed educators and seasoned professionals, Hacker said. There will be a maximum 18-to-1 student-teacher ratio.
The plan is to have 150 students total in each grade and add more trades to the curriculum -- such as plumbing, HVAC and heavy-equipment operating -- over the next several years, Hacker said.
"The idea here is we have 98 member companies in our trade organization and these companies are in need of a workforce development pipeline," he said.
Hacker said students who complete the training earn required credits toward an associate's degree in construction technology from Zane State College or apprenticeship training through Ohio Construction Institute, also run by ABC's Central Ohio chapter.
"Training is something we've done for a long time," said Hacker, noting the 11,000-square-foot institute, adjacent to the academy, has been open for 25 years.
"We just haven't done it on the high school level."
Hacker said the building trades are a high-paying alternative career for those who will not seek a bachelor's degree. Some apprentices in the construction field make $13 to $38 per hour, he said.
"These kids have an opportunity to do quite well for themselves," he said.
"This is a pathway to a lot of people to earn a good living and not incur a lot of debt by taking out a lot of loans to earn a college degree."
To enroll or find out more about the academy, visit centralohioabc.org.