Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds touted the value of trade schools on a visit to Council Bluffs on Thursday.

Reynolds toured the TradeWorks Academy at Thomas Jefferson High School, chatted with students, posed for pictures with them and said programs like TradeWorks are “what the future of education should look like.”

In the program, which will start up fully next school year, high school students can study mechanics, construction, fabrication, electrical work, plumbing and HVAC and refrigeration — and receive certification, an associate degree or foundational skills for more advanced training.

The same program is offered at the district’s other high school, Abraham Lincoln.

“They are doing phenomenal work here,” she said. “It’s exciting to see the kids engaged. ... They appreciate the opportunity.”

The school district is using private dollars to renovate the space for the program at both schools. The renovations will take place over the summer and be ready when school starts. About 300 students are registered to enter the program at both schools next school year. The courses are being offered on an exploratory basis this year.

The total renovation cost of the two sites, including equipment and materials, is $2.1 million, spokeswoman Diane Ostranski said. The majority will be paid for with private donations, she said. The district’s schools foundation is still seeking donations for equipment and materials.

During the governor’s visit, students Nate Newton and Hunter Ryba showed her the wall they built in class with wood studs and drywall, and the electrical connections they installed.

Reynolds told them there are great opportunities and good-paying jobs in the trades. Nate said a visit from the governor was “a cool honor.”

He said he isn’t sure of a career yet. He said he may pursue a career in one of the trades or law enforcement, but he just enjoys the academy’s hands-on learning.

“It’s using my hands and getting up out of my seat,” he said. “It’s easier to learn about stuff when you’re actually doing it, than while you’re sitting in a classroom looking at a white board just copying down notes all day.”

Hunter’s grandfather owns a construction company. He said he may pursue a career in construction.

“I just kinda like doing this. I like fixing stuff. I like to do stuff with my hands, it’s a lot of fun.”

Pat Garrett, the governor’s communication director, said that this year the governor’s budget calls for $20 million in new funding for the Future Ready Iowa program.

Future Ready Iowa is the governor’s plan to train Iowans for the jobs of today and tomorrow. The goal of Future Ready Iowa is 70 percent of Iowa workers having education or training beyond high school by 2025.

Future Ready Iowa, he said, also leverages private dollars to ensure that students are ready to enter the workforce after high school with the skills needed for a good-paying job and career.

He said the budget also includes an additional $1 million for STEM education and a 2.3 percent budget increase for community colleges and K-12 education.

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Joe covers education for The World-Herald, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school. Phone: 402-444-1077.

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