Students at Dutchtown High School who want to graduate ready to start a high-wage job as an electrician will be able to do so without leaving campus starting in the 2015-16 school year, said Superintendent Patrice Pujol at a news conference on June 30 at the school.

Thanks in part to a $50,000 grant from the Louisiana Construction Education Foundation, Dutchtown High will create an on-campus program, including an electrical laboratory, that will allow students to earn industry-based electrical certifications according to the National Center for Construction Education and Research standards, Dutchtown Principal Carli Francois said.

The Ascension Parish school system has long offered electrical courses leading to certification as part of its industry-based certifications, Pujol said, but, to-date, “we’ve bussed students off site, to the ABC Training Center. Now we’ll be able to do some of that initial training as part of their high school curriculum.”

Anothony Prudomme and Brenden Melancon, both seniors at Dutchtown this year, already have a jump-start on their licensing.

“We went to the ABC center,” Melancon, who has already completed his NCCER Core training, and electrical I and II training. But, he said, it would have been nice to earn the same certifications without leaving campus.

As it stands, he’ll be completing the electrical III and IV course his senior year, and has already had the opportunity to talk to employers about starting work when he is finished with school.

Staying on campus means a more personalized touch to the education, less travel for the students, and the ability to allow older students to mentor younger students.

“I plan to utilize their experience,” said Jeff Templet, who will be running the program.

“Plus I’ll be able to watch their progress closely,” he said. The job interviewing process begins with the first class, in reality, he said.

Employers are looking for responsible, hard-working students who take the process seriously, he said, and will often hire a good candidate based on that criteria alone.

“They will pay for your advanced training and you can earn money while you’re doing it,” he said.

Pujol said 639 students graduated in 2015 with industry-based certifications, and they will be well-positioned to start high-wage jobs in craft trades right away.

“High wage jobs are essential to our kids’ success. High wages mean a high standard of living, and more opportunities to grow,” she said.

And the jobs are there.

“Louisiana has a shortage of 7,000 workers in the construction trade, and 1,200 of those are electricians. And those are right-here, right-now numbers. They will only go up,” she said.

Thirty-three percent of Ascension Parish Schools students are in these skilled trade programs, higher than the state average of 20 percent, Pujol said.

Tim Johnson, executive director with the LCEF, said his organization awarded the grant because the construction industry is feeling the need for trained workers in skilled trades.

Francois said the grant was awarded after school was out, so there are still spots available in the Dutchtown program.