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Watts Up? Middle Schoolers Learn about Electric Work at Skilled Trades Explorers Program

Middle School students listen to a presentation from NMC electric instructor Jeff Morse
"The [trades] have the potential to take you farther and pay you more than the corporate ladder ever could. There has been a common misperception that a career in the skilled trades is not always the first choice. We’re here to change that narrative." - Traverse Connect

There's never been a better time to enter the trades. As the demand for skilled laborers grows in Northwest Michigan and throughout the country, Kingsley Middle School is hosting a new series to introduce students to different career paths in the trades.

The Skilled Trades Explorers after-school program from Traverse Connect is an eight-week series featuring guests and professionals working in construction, carpentry, HVAC, electric, and more.

On December 6, students learned about electric work from NMC electrical instructor Jeff Morse and Windemuller Electric design-build project manager Jessica Novack.

"I signed up for this program because it sounded fun and interesting and I wanted to learn and help my dad out, who works in the trades," said Lyla, a seventh grader. "My favorite thing so far has been electric work or welding!"

Mr. Morse shows students his Van de Graaff generator which produces high voltage direct current electricity, creating a spark between the globes.

Electrical instructor Jeff Morse says what he loves about his career is working with his hands to solve problems.

“The first day I wired something up, I was like 'wow, this is cool' and I could see what I was doing," he said.

"You can drive through town and say 'I worked on this building. I did the lights on that building.' It's one of the most rewarding parts of the job."

“Any type of construction is all about solving problems. Some days its real simple problems, other days you've got to come up with a solution," he said.

But the industry known for solving problems is facing a big challenge of its own: too many electricians are aging out of the profession and not enough young professionals are entering the field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a need for 85,000 new electricians through 2024.

The shortage of skilled labor creates a lucrative opportunity for anyone aspiring to enter the trades.

“A lot of the field electricians and foremen make over six figures. These young kids are coming into the trades and buying brand-new trucks and houses, and they have money to spend because they don't have college debt," said Ms. Novack.

"This could be something I could maybe see myself doing after high school. The salary is pretty ok, that's pretty cool!" said Jayden, an eighth grader.

Although many of these jobs don't require a college degree, there are plenty of prerequisites to entering the field of electric work and other trades.

In the final session of the program, students will learn about the training, apprenticeships, certificates, and on-the-job learning required to enter the trades workforce.

To learn more about the program, email faculty lead Bob Shoaff at

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