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Valley High School Students Explore Career Options

May 31, 2012

Successfully operating a school district is not very different from running a corporation. In order to have long-term growth, organizations must define their purpose and employ strategic planning. In the past year, the DUSD Strategic Plan (2008-2012) has been transformed into Vision 20/20. Multiple committees comprised of Administration, Staff and Parents have worked throughout this entire school year to help sharpen the District’s focus as we move forward. Part of the mission statement reads “…Where all students will become lifelong learners.” What also came out of this discussion was an unofficial motto of supporting all of our students to become college and career-ready. This last statement is very important as not all students will elect to attend college. There are countless ways in which students can contribute to society and earn a living. On May 24, was invited to attend a Career Day at the Northern California Laborers Apprenticeship location in San Ramon. The ACAC is the Alameda County Apprenticeship Collaboration.

For this half day event, students from Eden ROP in Castro Valley, Oakland Tech, Livermore High, Dublin High and Valley High School were treated to a worthwhile experience. The day included an orientation and multiple hands-on demonstrations inside and outside of the training facility. The presentations were led by both active and retired members of the Union of Operating Engineers, Local 3. The members were very candid about making the commitment to joining the Apprenticeship Program. The initial portion takes place in a five-week residential schooling program just outside of Sacramento. The goal is to move from Apprenticeship status to that of Journeyman Operating Engineer. That accomplishment is not achieved over a summer of training. Apprentices need to log in 8,400 training hours in order to advance. What sets this program apart from others is that the Apprentices are paid during this period while they learn at the feet of experienced Journeymen. And do not be fooled by the title – women are highly encouraged to apply.

The work is hard and is often conducted in less than ideal conditions. During the apprenticeship, it is not uncommon to work ten hours a day – sometimes six days a week. The work is physical and the machinery is often noisy. No breaks are allowed and the lunch period is one half hour. So why would one want to do this type of work? Why become a Construction Equipment Operator, Heavy Duty Repairer or Plant Operator? For many, it is the satisfaction of a solid day of hard work and also knowing that he/she has helped build the infrastructure of their community. Our invitation to this event came from Liz Buckley, Counselor at Valley High School. We reached out to Ms. Buckley to understand the impact of this program. What is your academic and professional background?

Liz Buckley: “I attained a B.A. in Finance from Illinois State University. I actually worked as a Stockbroker and Commodities Trader for over 20 years. I’ve had other careers, but I finally found my passion – working with high school students. I’ve been employed by DUSD since 2004 and I’ve been a Counselor at Valley High exclusively since 2006. I love my job and I am proud of something / someone everyday!” What is the genesis of the ACAC event and how long has VHS been an active participant?

Buckley: “I’ve been associated with them since 2005 by attending monthly meetings. Through the collaboration, we can educate our students on career and pathways that may tie into their passion. We encourage our students to continue their college classes along with their training. There are many ways to becoming a CEO of a company and in a contractor’s life, knowing every job from the bottom up is a great way to learn.” Do you know of any VHS students that have enrolled into the Apprentice Program?

Buckley: “I know of three students that are pursuing their career in the trades. These skill sets include Welding and Electrician. We’ll probably have a few more enroll in the next cycle.” Finally, what other occupational programs have your students been exposed to this year?

Buckley: “The City of Dublin has made presentations on careers in City Government, Police and Fire Services. We’ve also had local colleges provide presentations along with discussions about careers as a Dental Hygienist, Nursing, Musician and Radio Production. One of our female students completed a course in Automotive Repair at Las Positas College!”

The working world is filled with a myriad of options. So, the next time that you drive across the Bay Bridge or take a seat at the soon to be built 49ers stadium in Santa Clara, you can thank an Operating Engineer.


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