Built To Last
New school teaches trades plus grades
By Gary Delsohn
Kevin Dobson is different from you, me and most people. When we see a problem in our community, we may gripe and vent, but we’re busy with our own lives and that’s often as far as we get.
Not Dobson. When the 32-year-old Natomas Charter School principal grew frustrated seeing so many smart, creative students finish school with “no tangible real-world skills,” as he put it, he felt compelled to act.
Despite having two kids and a demanding job, he has spent much of the past three years raising money and drumming up support for a free charter school he plans to open in North Sacramento.
Focusing on under-represented kids and those who would often be first in their families to attend college, Dobson’s goal is a program that doesn’t require students to choose between college and a career.
Students at his Capital College and Career Academy will learn what it takes to secure a job in the construction industry while completing college prep work. Thanks to agreements with Sacramento State University and American River College, they will take college classes and earn credits while still in high school.
“We will be the only school in Sacramento really intensely focused on a career path but also with that college piece,” Dobson says. “There’s just too many smart, creative kids out there who are falling through the cracks, and we’re going to do our best to address that need.”
Timothy Murphy, a member of the Capital College board and CEO of the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange, explains that for every five journeymen in the construction trades who retire, there’s one apprentice in the pipeline.
“Everyone in the construction industry I talk to has difficulty finding trained and experienced workers,” Murphy says. “They either have to poach workers from someone else or other companies poach from them. Yet kids who don’t want to go to college or maybe aren’t sure tend to be overlooked if they’re interested in a trade career. CCCA will expose kids to both options so they can choose what works best for them.”
If the Sacramento County Office of Education signs off on his vision after a hearing scheduled Sept. 28, Dobson plans to start classes next fall at the old Limn Furniture showroom at 501 Arden Way.
First, he must keep raising money to meet the anticipated $1 million budget needed to get off the ground with about 70 students. Within a few years, his plan calls for a student body of 400.
Sacramento’s Five Star Bank is an early supporter. “We are happy to support Kevin’s leadership and his efforts to open the Capital College and Career Academy’s doors,” says James Beckwith, bank president and CEO. “Not only does this program guide and assist students toward meaningful employment but it helps our economy thrive by creating a pipeline of educated, prepared and energized talent.”
Because the school would be affiliated with the County Office of Education, Capital College could receive average daily attendance funds from the state for much of the work students perform.
Dotson has enlisted a board of directors with representatives from Turner Construction, Bell Brothers Plumbing, Heating and Air, the CEO of Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, SMUD and other local organizations.
The program seems practical and well thought-out. Freshman year, students learn foundational skills for the construction trades with an emphasis on safety. They earn certificates to work in the field.
After two more rounds of “work-based explorations” sophomore year, students are likely to know what type of work environments they like. When they complete their second year, students will be outfitted with toolsets through partnerships with Harbor Freight, Platt Electrical and United Rental.
By junior year, students will be “married” to a company for the next two years. Dobson says students will dive headfirst into obtaining tangible certificates and experiences to ensure all graduates are career-ready. Starting junior year, students will begin to complete core classes for an associate degree.
By graduation, students will have college units, trade-specific certifications and significant on-the-job training.
“I love my job,” Dobson says. “I never thought I would start a school. But there is a big need out there and I’m convinced we can have a real impact for the community and for our students.”
For information, visit capcca.org.
Gary Delsohn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.