Phillip Cronin, Southeast Polk High School, Pleasant Hill, Iowa
Thirty-eight years as a CTE educator has been one of the most rewarding decisions for Phillip Cronin. Currently an industrial technology teacher at Southeast Polk High School in Pleasant Hill, Iowa, Cronin explains that part of the appeal to be a CTE teacher is working with kids who are hands-on learners. “It’s a joy to teach people new skills. Every day is different and I enjoy the variety…getting to know new students each year and help them develop new skills and grow,” continues Cronin.
Cronin feels that the more opportunities he can give his students to build their education and improve their employability, the more successful they will become. He points out that credentials are “really big right now” for industry leaders and businesses. “Coming out of school with something other than just a diploma means a bit more, I think,” says Cronin, “A lot of students have come back and told me they were able to get a job because of credentials. It gave them the upper hand when competing against other applicants for a job.”
Three years ago, Cronin discovered CareerSafe at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. Cronin admits that a first his students resisted the OSHA safety training the initial year he implemented it. “It was like pulling teeth to get them to do it. Now they are asking to stay in from class to work on it. They’re very receptive to the safety training now. We’ve had a 100% completion rate this year,” he describes.
Cronin believes that safety is the most important thing he teaches, and feels that OSHA safety training is an additional avenue to drive home that importance. “I can teach safety until I’m blue in the face, but if they hear it from more than one source, it sticks with them,” he continues.
He stays in contact with local employers in the construction industry who all agree that safety training is absolutely imperative. Based on his discussions, Cronin knows how important having OSHA credentialing prior to starting a job can be. Students that come to a business or job interview are immediately more valuable to employers when they already possess industry recognized credentials; sometimes even hiring Cronin’s students regardless of having an official job opening.
“Employers can teach them skills specific for a job, but imbedding safety awareness in their lives if they are using it at work or at home…that’s the most important thing we can teach them [as educators],” explains Cronin. In his construction classes, his students spend a lot of time learning how equipment operates. Because Cronin’s classes attend real job sites and work in real construction situations, Cronin wants his students focused and knowledgeable. “I don’t want anyone leaving [my class] with an injury. Accidents happen, yes, but I never want it to be because someone was not practicing safety procedures.”
With the dedication and hard work of educators like Phillip Cronin, we are able to educate students in high school not only for entry-level jobs, but also do our part to prepare them for the rest of their lives.