CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Giving men and women who are unemployed, underemployed, living in poverty or formerly incarcerated a way to improve their earning potential is the mission of the Beatties Ford Road Vocational Trade Center.
"Right now we live in a city where there's more construction going on than any other city in the Southeast. And there's an extreme deficit for skilled labor,” Beatties Ford Road Vocational Trade Center Founder Fran Hall told WCNC Charlotte.
Hall has devoted approximately the past 20 years of her life to making a difference in helping others get jobs in trade jobs. The Beatties Ford Road Vocational Trade Center sits between Interstate 85 and Brookshire Freeway along the roadway in which it bears its name.
When you visit, the building is evidence of the lessons its students are mastering.
"All this tile work you see -- the HVAC work, electrical work, all the LED lights -- that were put in by students and instructors,” Hall pointed out to WCNC Charlotte's Fred Shropshire.
The vocational trade center is a nationally accredited school that offers courses ranging from heating and air, plumbing, drywall, and brick masonry.
"It's a career path that basically doesn't require a college degree, " Scott Edwards, who is a course instructor, explained. "It allows the student after roughly six months to go start working in the field,” said course instructor Scott Edwards.
Edwards hopes these lessons will allow someone to earn a salary equivalent to someone who graduated college with a bachelor's degree.
Students like 18-year-old Bryce Smalls, who prefers to work with his hands got interested in the school after his grandfather introduced him to trade work.
"My grandfather used to do this. So I found it really interesting,” Smalls said. “So once we got around to hearing about this, this became a lot of fun. So I thought this would be a good challenge.”
Hall said more than 100 students have finished a trade program at the Beatties Ford school. Those students will likely have no problem finding lucrative work. There are hundreds more students on a waiting list just to start coursework.
"Once our students get to level two, where they're about to graduate, we try to get them as much hands-on experience as we can,” Hall said.
Last Spring, the center received a $50,000 grant from SAFE Charlotte. Just a few months ago they received a $5,000 grant from the Parham Family Charitable Fund. The mission is fueled by public and private donations.
Money raised this month from WCNC Charlotte viewers, will go towards building a machine workshop, where classes involving machinery would be taught. Right now, students have to go outside of the Beatties Ford school building to do all of their hands-on learning.
With additional funding from donations, Hall also hopes to expand the program to impact kids younger than 18.
"We want to build a vocational high school for young men."
You can also make a difference by donating money to help fund the program.
WCNC Charlotte, the TEGNA Foundation, the Parham Family Charitable Fund and Steel Skin Realty presented a $5,000 check to the organization on March 25.