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Training Academy Preparing Ninth Graders for Hovensa Careers

Nov. 10, 2006 — Students from private, parochial and public schools are receiving valuable knowledge now to ensure a future career at Hovensa. The St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) has begun the CTEC Craft Training Academy to prepare ninth-grade students for careers in their choice of electrical, instrumentation and millwright crafts.
The program begins with ninth graders and will continue throughout their high school careers in order to prepare them for entry-level positions at Hovensa. The refinery has committed $500,000 to the program and has guaranteed placement for 20 students. According to Hovensa Vice President Alex A. Moorhead, graduates would be guaranteed positions at the refinery at a starting annual salary of more than $31,000 plus fringe benefits.
Currently 45 students from AZ Academy, St. Joseph's, St. Croix Educational Complex and Central High School are in the program. The Hovensa donation would cover all books, equipment, teachers and administrative personnel. Graduates of the program would receive a nationally recognized certificate in their field.
According to CTEC training coordinator Yvette Lagao, the program is accredited through the National Center for Construction Education and Research. Although the program is usually geared to adults, Lagao said that due to a shortage of contract workers, the refinery "wanted to try a different angle using children."
Lagao said mastering a trade takes many years and training younger students is not uncommon on the mainland. "A lot of trade schools offer programs like this, and it is not unlikely to have these programs offered through a high school."
The curriculum is made up of theory, lab and class work and hands-on training. According to training manager Dan McIntosh, the students are excited about the program.
"It's different for them because there is an end to this that could be positive if they choose to continue on that path," McIntosh said, adding that the program is in the introductory phase and the students are in the pre-vocational aspect of the training.
The core curriculum teaches basic safety in the workplace. McIntosh said students are currently being taught introduction to construction mathematics, which is applied mathematics. "Students are able to see how math directly applies to their career," he said.
Students are also being introduced to hand and power tools, blueprint reading, deciphering, and building code knowledge. The importances of proper communication on job sites, as well as employability skills, are also being taught as part of the curriculum.
After each course, students are given a written and hands-on skills test. The program has been embedded into the current curriculum. For the students involved, the program takes the place of another elective they may have chosen to take.
McIntosh said the program is progressing so well that they may be able to allow many ninth graders who qualify to enter the program in January. "We were on the fast track," he said, adding, "we were not able to properly market the program to all students."
McIntosh said requirements for the program included a numeric grade of at least 85 percent in math, science and English. Other requirements for enrollment include completing an application form, submitting three recommendations — one each from the student's math, science and English teachers — and writing a 250-word essay describing how the academy would fit into the student's career goal.
McIntosh also said that some of the original applicants have been turned away because of poor grades and some that were accepted have opted out of the program. McIntosh said future plans are to ready sixth and seventh grade students for the opportunity to participate in the program when they enter ninth grade.
For more information on the program contact CTEC at 719-7972.
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