St George is starting kids early in the trades to keep them in the area

A small one-town school district in Maine is working on a $1.5 million project that will create a dedicated space for career and technical education programming to serve its elementary and middle school students.

For the last year, the St. George Municipal School Unit ― which serves about 200 students in grades K-8 ― has been fundraising for the new career, technical education and makerspace building project. School officials hope by introducing their students early on to technical education opportunities, they will gain the skills and confidence to consider different career options later on in life, all while meeting the needs of the local workforce.

“We really see this as the future of public education and we see it as key to rural economic development,” St. George Municipal School Unit Superintendent Mike Felton said. “We think it’s going to help prepare our kids to meet the needs of the jobs that are already out there and address some of the labor shortages in the technical fields, but also help give them the skills to create new businesses in the industries of the future.”

When it comes to career and technical education, the district has offered a makerspace program in recent years, which will be able to expand in the new space. Through this program students work with 3D printers, CNC routers and a laser cutter to design and create a range of objects. An off-site boatbuilding program through a partnership with the Rockland-based Apprenticeshop has also been available to students.

But outside of these opportunities, students largely have to wait until high school for exposure to other technology and trades-oriented programs, like carpentry or welding, when they can elect to enroll in classes at the Midcoast School of Technology.

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