Long Island educators and businesses are joining forces to steer young people to the trades, where they are practically guaranteed a job and aren’t saddled with big student loans. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Island educators and businesses are joining forces to steer young people to the trades, where they are practically guaranteed a high-paying job and aren’t saddled with big student loans.

On Wednesday, they announced an expansion of the Nassau County BOCES program while noting the median annual salary of plumbers in the region is $93,000.

“More than ever before, countless Long Island youth are underemployed with mountains of college debt, but there are hundreds of opportunities out there for our middle-skilled workers who have the right training,” said Robert Dillon, superintendent of schools for the Nassau Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Dillon and other officials, speaking at a news conference in Levittown, said Nassau BOCES is increasing its Career and Technical Education program from 1,600 to 2,200 seats for high school students starting this fall.

It is doing so by creating a new teaching location, the Gerald R. Claps Career and Technical Center in Levittown. That is in addition to a center that BOCES already operates in Westbury.

“Career and technical education is an important and critical learning experience that is often overlooked in our country today,"  said Tonie McDonald, superintendent of schools in Levittown, which is partnering with BOCES on the new center.

Dillon read a list of known available jobs with established companies in Nassau County: 19 plumbers; 49 medical records technicians; 53 electricians; 85 bus, truck and diesel engine specialists; 98 auto technicians; 133 medical assistants.

The median annual salary for these jobs is $50,000, he said.

“In this career opportunity, you don’t have to search for a job, it’s searching for you,” Assemb. David McDonough (R-Merrick) said.

Northwell Health, a major health care company that runs a growing number of hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices on Long Island, is hiring about 200 workers a week, with BOCES serving as a “pipeline” for many of those jobs, said Cheryl Davidson, senior director of workforce readiness at the company.

“We clearly are seeing a need for middle-skills jobs — those are the jobs that require more than a high school diploma, yet less than a college degree," Davidson said.

“There is a shortage of health care workers because we basically are in the perfect storm. The baby boomers are starting to retire, [and] we have a low unemployment rate at 3 percent. You have young adults who cannot afford to live here and are leaving Long Island, and an increasing number of people over 65 who require more health care. So, it’s all coming together and really creating a challenge for us to find skilled workers.”

BOCES is creating a coalition, along with school districts and private companies such as Northwell, to raise awareness about the growing need of labor-based careers and the benefits of a trade background, Dillon said.

The Nassau BOCES program provides high school students with a half-day program that includes more than 40 “hands-on“ courses, officials said.

School districts must pay “tuition“ of about $13,000 per pupil to send a student to the centers, but much of that money is reimbursed through state aid, Dillon said.

Some BOCES classes are held in airplane hangers, horse training stables, carpentry shops, or video production studios, officials said. Many faculty members are professionals in their field.

About 1,200 adults also study at the BOCES Westbury location each year.

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