The students of George Wertz’ Construction Trades program at Deming High School’s Hofacket Campus can be found most days with their hands on tools, operating computer simulations of heavy equipment as training, or studying protocols to become certified by the Occupational Health and Safety Organization (OSHA). The program started in 2001 and has since led to students building five homes as well as saving the school district expenses on small jobs around facilities. The program is also self-supportive, with materials and other expenses -- aside from Wertz’ salary -- paid for with money earned by the students’ work.
“Every student that goes through Construction 1 through 4 is certified OSHA. They complete the 10 hour course. It’s not easy,” Wertz said. “That card is something they can take to potential employers.”
And that is the entire idea: job preparation. In his ninth grade class, students rotate through 13 sectors. Those sectors include electrical, plumbing, framing, blueprint reading and other “basics,” as Wertz says. Students spend 10 days in each section, all with exposure to machinery, tools, materials and instruction in a safe environment. There are also computers set up in a classroom on which students can learn how to operate heavy equipment like bulldozers, excavators, forklifts and cranes. His dream is to one day have a computer lab dedicated to training students.
“The whole goal is to try and give them a leg up,” he said. “I want them to have an advantage in the job market.”
The program has seen much success, but with large numbers -- up to 40 in his freshman course-- and limited space, which is highlighted by different classes being instructed at the same time in the same room, he hopes voters will approve the school bond. Approval will not raise taxes, and will allow the district move forward with plans for a new high school.
“The classes are too small to handle a full load of kids,” he said as he stepped through a group of students. “Space and technology are my two biggest concerns. Having a cohesive system where this all fits together would just be tremendous for this class.”
The School Bond Election day is Tuesday, February 4, but early voting is ongoing at the Luna County Clerk’s Office, 700 S. Silver Avenue, until Jan. 31. On Election Day, Feb. 4, voting can be conducted at the Clerk’s Office, Mimbres Valley Learning Center, 2300 East Pine St., Holy Family Catholic Church Parish Center, 615 S. Copper St., and Columbus Village Library, 112 Broadway.
“We are very proud of our Construction Trades Program and fortunate of have a teacher of George Wertz’s stature and dedication. Career Tech programs are critical to the success of any good high school and lead the way in raising students’ abilities in the job markets. They also are a vital part of community economic development and success,” Harvielee Moore, DPS Superintendent, said. “Passage of the bond for a new high school at the current site and a new intermediate school at a new site will give teachers and students the space, security and technology needed to meet district career readiness goals for students and assist in meeting economic development expectations for Luna County.”
Meanwhile, the students will continue work toward finishing another home to put on the market.
Story and photo submitted by Matt Robinson for Deming Public Schools.