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Shaping Futures

The Impact of Career Connections on Hawaii's Youth

Career Connections Early Exposure to the Trades

Training Coordinator April Acquavella takes us through the journey and achievements of the Hawaii Carpenters Apprenticeship & Training Fund’s (HCATF) Career Connections program. This initiative bridges the gap between education and the trades, offering high school students in Hawaii early exposure to construction careers and hands-on experience in the industry.

A Look Back at the Program’s Inception

More than a decade ago, union carpenters from across the United States convened to create a curriculum that would prepare youth for a future in the trades. This led to the creation of the Career Connections pre-apprenticeship curriculum. Piloted in 2017 across several Hawaii high schools, the program has been a game-changer, offering students an alternative path to successful, high-paying careers.

A group of summer interns pose outside the Training Center with their certificates in hand.

Program Structure and Benefits

The Career Connections program equips students with essential skills, including tool safety, introductory carpentry, employability, and basic math. Industry-recognized certificates and summer internships offer real-world experience and early entry into the workforce. These internships are not just jobs; they are an introduction to a culture of professionalism, punctuality, and hard work.

Expanding Reach and Success

Since its inception, Career Connections has expanded from three schools on Oahu to 32 public high schools statewide. The program has successfully placed 60 interns with 17 contractors, with many students continuing into HCATF’s apprenticeship program. This expansion is a testament to the program’s effectiveness in attracting and training Hawaii’s young talent.

A cohort of summer interns pose inside the HCATF ballroom with their certificates ad instructors after their recognition ceremony.

Looking Forward

The goal moving forward is to strengthen the pipeline from even younger ages, reaching out to intermediate and elementary students to spark early interest in the trades. As competition for talented high school graduates increases, HCATF’s Career Connections program stands ready to guide the next generation into fulfilling careers in construction.

The Takeaway 

Career Connections is more than just a program; it’s a pathway to opportunity for Hawaii’s youth. By providing early exposure to the trades, HCATF is not only filling an industry need but is also empowering students with valuable skills and experiences that last a lifetime. As HCATF continues to nurture this vital connection between education and the trades, the future looks bright for both Hawaii’s youth and its construction industry.

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