Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Fran Maye [email protected]­tu­ry­ @ dai­ly­lo­cal on Twit­ter

KENNETT SQUARE >> When Tom Bent­ley, who builds cus­tom homes in Ch­ester County, had a meet­ing with Barry To­masetti, Kennett Con­sol­i­dated schools chief re­cently, the con­ver­sa­tion drifted to rea­sons so many stu­dents are not tak­ing up the trades.

“I told him that he is train­ing kids to be lawyers and doc­tors, but there are good jobs in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try,” Bent­ley said. “Dur­ing the re­ces­sion, our ranks got wiped out. There are all kinds of op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to­day in this busi­ness, from plumb­ing and heat­ing, elec­tri­cal work, to man­ag­ing and sur­vey­ing land devel­op­ment and real es­tate.”

So last week, about 30 stu­dents in Kennett’s STEM classes got an up-close view of what is in­volved in the build­ing in­dus­try by tour­ing Bent­ley’s Stone­house devel­op­ment on South Union Street. The houses are in var­i­ous stages of con­struc­tion, but when fin­ished, a 38-town­house devel­op­ment will be on the site.

Kennett High now of­fers a cur­ricu­lum called Project Lead the Way in which stu­dents and teach­ers deign homes while work­ing within Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity con­struc­tion guide­lines. Stu­dents get a chance to see ac­tual homes un­der con­struc­tion, and to bet­ter un­der­stand whether it’s an oc­cu­pa­tion right for them.

“Our lat­est col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bent­ley homes is al­low­ing our stu­dents to rub el­bows with real world en­gi­neers and ar­chi­tects, and this ex­pe­ri­ence is al­low­ing them to fur­ther un­der­stand that the core sub­ject ar­eas have pur­pose be­yond the class­room,” To­masetti said. “Over the years, we have seen a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the num­ber of Kennett grad­u­ates that study engi­neer­ing at the uni­ver­sity level, and I credit the com­pe­tence of our math­e­mat­ics, sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy teach­ers across the dis­trict for creat­ing this fo­cus.”

High schools and col­leges have strug­gled for decades to at­tract stu­dents to job-ori­ented classes rang­ing from car­pen­ters

to welders to plumbers. But stu­dents who take up the trades are see­ing in­creased salaries be­cause sup­ply is down.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Bureau of La­bor Statis­tics, me­dian pay for HVAC tech­ni­cians is $21.46 per hour, or $44,630 per year. For plumbers, pip­efit­ters and steam­fit­ters, the me­dian pay for is $24.36 an hour, or $50,660 a year. For elec­tri­cians, it’s $51,110 an­nu­ally.

Not to men­tion the cost of col­lege has in­creased more than 260 per­cent in the past 35 years. Tu­ition and hous­ing for a four-year post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tion is ap­prox­i­mately $25,000

“We are strug­gling to find sub­con­trac­tors and qual­i­fied peo­ple. It’s the big­gest con­cern of all small builders, even larger ones across the coun­try. We’re look­ing now at go­ing into uni­ver­si­ties to re­cruit kids right of school and train them.” — Tom Bent­ley

per year. And stu­dent loans aren’t a bur­den for these stu­dents.

There more than 44 mil­lion bor­row­ers in the United States who col­lec­tively owe $1.5 tril­lion in stu­dent loan debt. The av­er­age stu­dent has $37,172 in stu­dent loan debt.

“If you look at the amount of debt these kids pick up, and the jobs are not al­ways that plen­ti­ful, this (trades) makes sense for some,” he said. “I think it’s bet­ter to go to ju­nior col­lege and get a foun­da­tion.”

And stu­dent with a good work ethic, Bent­ley, stand to make se­ri­ous money in their lives.

“I know a lot of plumbers, elec­tri­cians and painters who are mil­lion­aires,” he said.

For the stu­dents who braved 12-de­gree weather to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the build­ing in­dus­try, they are part of a move­ment be­tween ed­u­ca­tors and builders gain­ing trac­tion in the na­tion. Stu­dents got a chance to learn from Bent­ley con­struc­tion en­gi­neers, sur­vey­ors and project man­agers. They even saw how builders to­day are us­ing tech­nol­ogy like drones to as­sist in the busi­ness.

“We are strug­gling to find sub-con­trac­tors and qual­i­fied peo­ple,” Bent­ley said. “It’s the big­gest con­cern of all small builders, even larger ones across the coun­try. We’re look­ing now at go­ing into uni­ver­si­ties to re­cruit kids right of school and train them.”

In the com­ing months, Bent­ley will be build­ing a devel­op­ment next to the Church Farm School in Ex­ton, and will look at ad­min­is­tra­tors there to see if there is an in­ter­est in col­lab­o­rat­ing on the project.

“Part­ner­ships like this be­tween busi­ness and ed­u­ca­tion en­rich learn­ing and pro­vide prac­ti­cal ex­po­sure for stu­dents that help guide ca­reer and col­lege choices,” said Ly­dia Hall­man, the di­rec­tor of cur­ricu­lum and math­e­mat­ics and sci­ence in­struc­tion at Kennett High School, who in­volved in the ini­tial plan­ning for the visit. “This par­tic­u­lar learn­ing op­por­tu­nity was lit­er­ally steps from the high school and there are many more like it. “

Kennett Con­sol­i­dated School Dis­trict of­fers stu­dents ad­vanced STEM elec­tives that in­clude In­tro­duc­tion to Engi­neer­ing, Prin­ci­ples of Engi­neer­ing, Aero­space Engi­neer­ing and Civil Engi­neer­ing and Ar­chi­tec­ture us­ing Project Lead the Way cur­ricu­lum.

The car­riage town­homes start in the low 500s and the model units will be avail­able to tour in midMarch. Other Bent­ley projects in Kennett Square in­clude Wal­nut Walk and Pem­ber­ton, both town­house com­mu­ni­ties,and Marl­boro Springs, a sin­gle­fam­ily devel­op­ment.


Kennett High School stu­dents check out the up­per floor of a house dur­ing an ed­u­ca­tional tour that showed them them how houses are con­structed.

Kennett stu­dent get in­struc­tion on how builders are us­ing drones in the build­ing in­dus­try.


Kennett stu­dents hear about how drones are help­ing builders in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try.

Kennett stu­dents read plans for town­homes dur­ing a tour of a con­struc­tion site in Kennett Square re­cently.

Kennett stu­dents talk to builders about the con­struc­tion dur­ing Project Lead The Way.

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