By providing their students with safety training, educators gain the satisfaction of knowing they have educated their students academically and improved their students' safety and employability.





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Erich Eifler, Operation Fresh Start, Wisconsin

 

Not all career and technical education schools and programs look the same. Some may function as standard high schools, some as vocational schools, and even more as outside-of-school programs.  Certain schools exist for the benefit of underprivileged or at-risk youth, who may need extra attention and care. In schools such as these, CTE is vital to student success. As the Director of Education for one such school, Operation Fresh Start (OFS) in Wisconsin, Erich Eifler reveals that career and technical education can reach students in all aspects of life.

A non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, OFS has provided services to over 8,000 youth and young adults since 1970. This unique program works with students between the ages of 16 and 24 who have not graduated high school or are in danger of not graduating. Eifler and the rest of the educators at OFS assist these students in their transition into adulthood by providing intensive small group and one-on-one instruction and counseling focused on building life skills, job skills and preparing for the future.

“We hope they come here and get on-the-job training. Not just for construction skills, but also ‘how to hold a job skills’, how to show up on time, communicate and hopefully [they are] walking away with a diploma, driver’s license and a job,” Eifler said.

Eifler began his career as a supervisor for construction sites before encouraged to go back to school for a teaching certification, which he ultimately did. He believes that coming from the industry has given him a rounded perspective on what his students need as they come into OFS and begin redirecting their lives.

The CareerSafe OSHA 10-Hour safety training is one of the first things his students learn at OFS before enrolling into reading, writing or mathematics courses.

“It’s an insightful tool for us. It’s an indication of where [the students] are in terms of reading skills and what their academic strengths are as well,” he explained.

The safety training is just as important of an element of OFS as the rest of their program from community service, high school courses including reading, language skills, math, science social studies, health and nutrition and civics and leadership, and career development to job placement assistance due to the amount of project hours students must complete. Through OFS’s Pathways core program, students are provided a paid job training program constructing affordable houses and working on local conservation and environmental projects for up to 32 hours a week.

“I really feel like that common experience and common set of expectations helps the crews have communication about safety and accelerates the whole safety atmosphere…Our group of students don’t have a long history of success, and [OSHA training] is one of the first big successes that’s empowering for them.”

Typically OFS students spend a few hours each day in the classroom working through makeup credits or attending night school to complete their high school education and start preparation for employment based on their career field interests. For the rest of their work days, students are on location at construction sites. According to Eifler, students complete 900 service hours on construction sites and as conservation crews.

As students complete and master their academic and practical skills training and receive their high school diploma, they continue on through career development counseling to identify their personal career goals and what strategies are available to achieve them. Once they finalize career fields, OFS students begin job shadowing and auditing courses at Madison College. OFS also offers job placement assistance to connect graduates with employers and post-secondary enrollment assistance for college.

Eifler shares that one of the biggest accomplishments for OFS is the success they have had in educating students about safety and advocating a safety mindset in that they have not had a lost-time incident in over five years.

“I know that when students leave to the worksite they are leaving with a common set of expectations and language of safety. This consistency makes communication around safety easier, and facilitates an even safer work environment.”

For additional information on the great work done at Operation Fresh Start please visit their website

 

CareerSafe wants to recognize teachers and CTE directors around the country that are taking strides to educate youth in workplace safety. Each month, CareerSafe will introduce you to an educator that has been implementing CareerSafe courses in his or her classroom. These educators strive to make a difference one student at a time. Nominate a teacher today!

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