The world learned countless lessons during the pandemic, some about our society and health care system, and others about how much time we can spend watching Netflix. One unique perspective that this situation gave us specifically was that what is essential, is often taken for granted.
Trades like building maintenance, plumbing and electricity are undeniably essential and are one of the few professions that continued through the COVID-19 shutdown.
This is why JEVS’ career training school, Orleans Technical College, is excited to reopen on Monday, July 6, 2020, after a 16-week closure to continue teaching essential skills in the building and construction trades. During the shutdown, curriculum presented added challenges to transitioning online due to its hands-on, practical nature. Some of the training programs were nearing the end of their six-month curriculum, others had just started the week before. Despite these obstacles, students were guided through remote videoconferencing career preparation and professional development modules.
“This way, students can jump right into training when they return,” said Debbie Bello, director of admissions. “I was happy to hear from so many of our students [during the lockdown] eager to stay engaged with their instructors and looking forward to coming back to school.”
Orleans Tech has taken many measures and precautions to help ensure students and staff a safe return to in-person instruction. Facility modifications include directional signage in the hallways; limited classroom, bathroom and breakroom capacities; and sanitizing stations throughout the building. There are also red marks outside the building to signify line places where students will wait to get their temperature taken along with a list of questions upon arriving. And, of course, everyone is required to wear masks.
“We’ve been busy making changes, such as retrofitting additional computer labs and classrooms to promote social distancing,” said Bill Lynch, campus president. “The entire team at Orleans Technical College is excited to welcome our students back to campus. We’ve always known that our students are the heart and soul of our College. Without them, we were literally and figuratively empty.”
The students are also looking forward to filling the halls once again. Specifically, Jonathan Ferris, former Marine who is using his GI Bill educational benefits to train for a civilian career, began his training course just one week before the shutdown. Ferris is currently studying carpentry and is eager to learn skills for a profession—and for his own house that he hopes to buy in the near future.
“School is the one thing I have been looking forward to for a long time,” Ferris said. “I am excited to see my classmates and start again.”
There will be other changes on the first day back, including an orientation on new policies and procedures in response to the still-present COVID-19 virus. Plus, the admissions and financial services departments will be busy processing enrollments for upcoming summer and fall class starts. Between March 14 (when the school closed) until now, Orleans Tech has received 275 requests for training information and welcomed dozens upon dozens to its twice-monthly virtual open houses. For many, Bello said, “the essential nature of the building trades seems more attractive to people now as a recession-proof career path.
“Our curricula teach the skills needed to access in-demand careers that offer living wages and career advancement opportunities,” said Lynch. “Our goal has always been to teach students thoroughly and efficiently to connect them to work as quickly as possible.”
“Although making all of these changes were a challenge, they were also an opportunity to grow and reflect on the importance of being together, in-person for school and work alike,” said Bello. I want to walk through the front door of Orleans, come into my office and go ‘Okay, let’s begin,’ and all the stuff that worries me is on the outside of this building,” she said. “I’m here to work and I am going to give you 110 percent.”
VIDEO: JEVS instructor, Bill Madel, talks about returning to the classroom after our career training school, Orleans Technical College, was closed for 16 weeks during the COVID-19 lockdown: