The buzz of a saw and grind of a drill will soon fill the hallways of JEVS’ Orleans Technical College during the after-school hours. This is because local high school students travel to the training facility in Northeast Philadelphia for a special Career Exploration Program in building trades.

In just four short months, Students spend between 40 to 80 hours learning the basics of carpentry, plumbing, electrical and a host of other skills related to construction, repair and maintenance. It’s a chance for the teenagers to put down their phones and pick up some hammers and nails.

Now in its fifth year, JEVS Human Services’ Career Exploration Program—housed at the organization’s career school, Orleans Technical College—has served 129 high school students, starting with a pilot of students from Mastery Charter School-Gratz campus. The program is a voluntary, extracurricular activity designed to promote not only meaningful trades’ skills, but also experience and confidence in Philadelphia’s youth. Many students learn about the program when they were juniors (from last year’s seniors) and are eager to sign up.

“What’s great about this opportunity is that the students come in uncertain about the field,” notes Anna Bogdanov, academic affairs director at JEVS’ Orleans Technical College. “They’re able to learn hands-on about the different trades, but also about themselves—their likes, their dislikes, what they’re good at—and they start to see opportunities for the future.”

Those opportunities aren’t lost on students.

For Ahmad, a student at Mastery Charter School-Pickett campus, mathematics was intimidating. So when he first started the Career Exploration Program at JEVS’ Orleans Technical College, he had some concerns. However, he said that he liked working with his hands.

Ahmad’s eagerness to learn was apparent before he made his way into the physical classroom. His interest piqued when an admissions officer from Orleans gave a presentation to his high school class.  He could have easily written off the presentation as a ticket to get out of class, but he listened to what the representative had to say, and he responded positively.

Upon completing the Career Exploration Program and graduating from high school, Ahmad enrolled in the building maintenance training program at Orleans Technical College to earn credentials for the trades workforce. He finished the program and is now working for Lindy Properties as a maintenance technician making $17/hour. Not bad for a young man who didn’t think he could be successful in this field. That’s the whole point of the Career Exploration Program.

“It really is a win-win,” said Bogdanov. “Trades learning in high schools has been on the decline nationwide, and coupled with a better economy, this has created a demand for construction and building tradespeople. Many of these students may not be college bound. This is one way to demonstrate a potential path to a successful, lucrative and long-term career.”

If your high school is interested in providing the Career Exploration Program to its seniors, please contact 215-728-4478 or email

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