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Christian Youth Corps conceives new program

SPRINGVILLE — The Christian Youth Corps of Delevan has been transforming properties and changing lives, both locally and across the country, since 2004. Part of its mission, according to founder Pete Andrews, is to teach kids and teens the skilled trades their projects often utilize, including plumbing, carpentry, electrical work and more. Enter Schooling to Apprenticeships, a program Andrews has devised, to help educate students who want to learn a trade and get them into the apprenticeships that will help them get into those fields.

“In the next 20 years, 80 percent of our skilled trades, plumbers, electricians and so forth, will be retiring. These guys are getting older, and there’s no one to replace them,” Andrews explained. “This program will help kids test-drive these careers; see hands-on what they’re all about, meet people who are having success, in these areas, before they invest time, money and commitment into these careers.

“I work with a lot of professionals who have people lining up for their jobs,” Andrews continued. “They say that they’d love to hire people, but it’d be nice to have someone who knows the basics. This program will teach [the skills] kids need to succeed, in these careers. There’s a lot of math. Schools, these days, are teaching a lot of college-prep, but this is targeted training, for trades.”

After speaking with representatives from the New York State Department of Labor, Andrews said he discovered that there are no programs like this in New York state, or anywhere else in the country. Although one other state is working on a similar program, Andrews said that his contact in that state is not ready to roll out the program, yet. Andrews has been gathering information from that initiative, to make Springville the trailblazer for the initiative.

“Kids need something to do, after school. Not every kid wants to play football, and not every kid has the will or the opportunity to do something like college, like I didn’t,” Andrews explained. “I was never college material. My parents didn’t have the money and I didn’t have the grades, but I learned a trade and went to work. These are highly-skilled trades, at a living wage, that will always be in high demand. That’s what we want to do, for these kids: Help give them that option.”

Since the CYC does not accept grants or government assistance, Andrews said he is also working on raising money, to support the endeavor.

“We don’t like to teach kids to work, to do things for themselves, and then turn around and walk around, with our hands out,” Andrews said. “And we don’t want kids to be shut out of the program, because they can’t afford it. We’re setting up a board for fundraising and marketing, because we earn our own way.”

While the CYC is still in negotiation with a local interest, regarding the future home of the Enter Schooling to Apprenticeships Program, Andrews said he sees a need for this type of education, and is also looking for people who see it, too.

“We’re looking to partner with local businesses, people who don’t necessarily want to hire someone, right away, but who wants someone to come on and learn. This is not just about going to work. It’s about education,” he added. “We need people on an education board, who are highly-skilled tradespeople or teachers at heart.”

The CYC undertakes building, service and clean-up projects every weekend, which Andrews said presents an opportunity for the Schooling to Apprenticeship participants to practice their trade, in a real-life setting. In addition, he said he wants to construct three “mini mansions” at the program’s location, where students can learn the trades.

“These will be in three stages, so they can work on them, from start to finish. They’ll always be going [at different stages of completion], in a continuous cycle. After the mansions are done, they’ll go to needy families for grandmother homes,” Andrews said, mentioning one cause the program might benefit.

Although he said the Schooling to Apprenticeship Program is still in the planning stages, Andrews is looking for people to get involved, partnerships to form and opportunities to present themselves.

“I’m always walking around, looking for doors to open. Sure, I’ve had a few doors shut on my nose,” he said, with a laugh. “But if you’re just standing there, watching a door slam shut, well, you could have been through it before it closed, if you kept moving.”

Andrews said that he is excited about the initiative, especially its potential location in Springville.

“This is about the businesses investing in the youth, the youth investing in businesses and the community investing in both of them. This is something we want to do that will be centered in New York. Not in Manhattan, not in Albany, but right here, in Western New York,” Andrews said. “We’ll be a catalyst, not only for the state, but the country.”

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