Retirees encouraged to pass on their trade skills to local students

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ST REGIS – The growing retiree population in the St. Regis community offers a wealth of experience and knowledge that can benefit community youth who are not inclined to go on to higher education, but who need a set of skills to support themselves and to help break the cycle of poverty in Mineral County. St. Regis Schools is looking at innovative ways to tap into this experience that can benefit not only the students at the school, but also the retirees, many who are living on a fixed income.

“As an educator responsible for preparing our students for the future, I know the workforce of the future will be greatly different with the increasing use of robotics and artificial intelligence. That said, some skill sets will always be in demand, and we need to make sure we prepare students with a skill set that will make them employable right out of school,” said Joe Steele, superintendent of St. Regis Schools.

To provide students with building trade skills like framing, carpentry and plumbing, St. Regis Schools is looking to the retirees to provide those skills.

“There are very few teachers coming out of college in the industrial arts, which makes filling shop vacancies very difficult. We are not the only district facing this issue,” Steele said. “Filling those positions requires looking at other resources that can be used to pass on those skills to a younger generation. Our retirees have those skills and can be a great resource for us.”

ONE AVENUE Steele is looking at is the Class 4 certification. To obtain a Class 4 license, an individual has to document at least 10,000 hours of employment in the trade. For self-employed individuals, that can be providing IRS Profit/Loss tax statements or other documentation of the existence of a business for the past five years, making it clear that the applicant was part of the business, and any business licenses and certifications the individual may have. Individuals who worked for a company need to provide documentation from the employer that outlines your duties, job description and length of time with the company.

“A class 4 license recognizes the experience, knowledge and skills trade people possess,” Steele said. “This is good route to go if you can document the required hours.”

Steele wants to make this a win-win for both the school and the retiree, so he is envisioning a schedule that allows retirees to work part of a day and still have time to do the things they enjoy in retirement. This arrangement can help supplement the retirees’ income while also teaching the students at St. Regis skill sets that offers immediate employment. This flexibility is important as some retirees may be under an earning cap before it impacts their retirement funds.

He has also been in touch with the Career and Technical Education Division of the Office of Public Instruction about having their building trades representative come down and do some safety classes and other trainings with the team Steele puts together. Steele wants to be as supportive and flexible as he can to make this a reality.

“The trades are becoming a lost art, yet the demand for these skills will continue to increase,” Steele said. “I can’t think of a better way to involve the community, increase the vocational opportunities for our youth, and provide some needed income for our retirees. The retirees can teach skills they have a passion for to our students and, hopefully, develop that same kind of passion for the trade in our students as they had.”

To push this effort forward, Steele will be presenting the idea to retirees who participate in various coffee discussions at local establishments, visiting with seniors at the St. Regis Senior Center dinners, and hosting a roundtable discussion to answer questions people may have.

Retirees who are interested in learning more about how this can work or about obtaining a Class 4 certification can contact Steele at 649-2311, or at steelej@stregis.k12.mt.us.

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