FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG)– More than 25 students collected 157 trade industry certifications in Okaloosa County to take with them into the real world. Superintendent Marcus Chambers cut the red board Friday at the building trades and construction workshop at Fort Walton Beach High School.

The program is finishing its first year in action. Teacher James Martin said they are teaching students a wide range of skills.

“Here in Okaloosa County we have about a 40 to 45% shortage in workforce in the construction industry and a lot of these students are that are great students will not go to college and they’re going to go directly into the workforce at 18 when they leave high school.  

With this knowledge that they have, they’re going to be paid a lot better than someone that doesn’t have the knowledge they’re going to know what they do when they get on the job site, and it’s going to benefit our community to build the buildings the houses, that we’re building here in record pace It’s going to be the best thing that has ever happened to our communities.”

Jasmes Martin, Building trades and cunstruction teacher

The program advances every year giving hands-on experience and upgrading skills in different fields. For the first year, students learn safety skills and construct different items like picnic tables.

“So in the first year of the program it’s mainly safety and we do green building as well,” said Martin. “The second year, the students will go into framing carpentry. In the third year, electrical HVAC.”

Martin is planning for the second year to leave a bigger impact. The classes will work with the city parks and recreation department to do repairs around the city for the experience. The students will also volunteer to frame and build homes with Habitat for Humanity.

“I had a shop class when I was in high school years ago,” said Martin. “We built the birdhouses and we built doors and furniture. But it wasn’t a skill that I could take into the workforce by teaching the trades, the carpentry framing my students can leave high school and they’ll frame a house. If they don’t go into the industry, at least my students when they walk into their apartment of their house, they will have an understanding of how it is built. If they need to replace their toilet or repair their toilet, they know how to do that because it’s something they learned in this program.”

Parents with kids wanting to join the class should contact the school and register early to fill the slots. The school cleared out old records and maintenance closets to create the workspace on campus.

Crestview, Laurel Hill and Choctaw all have similar programs available to students in Okaloosa County.