With a decline in America’s number of skilled workers and manufacturers, public school systems throughout the nation are trying to prepare students to do the necessary hands-on work.

On Monday, Jan. 23, U.S. House of Representatives Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer [D-MD District 5] visited Calvert County’s Career and Technology Academy to speak with students, teachers and administrators about the importance of expanding the workforce.

“We need more and more of you,” Hoyer told the students who participated in a brief roundtable discussion. The academy students, who attend Calvert’s four high schools and are transported from three of those schools by buses to the academy in Prince Frederick (the academy shares a campus with Calvert High School), are enrolled in courses that teach a variety of skills. Among the Career and Technology Academy’s classes are health professions, automotive service, carpentry, cosmetology, food production, graphic arts, computer programming, computer-assisted drafting, plumbing and welding.

Calvert County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jack Smith had invited Hoyer to tour the academy several months ago. The congressman’s visit comes as Congress continues to consider additional legislation related to the “Make it in America” initiative, a plan aimed at creating jobs and restoring America’s stature in the global economy.

“We don’t have enough people who know how to put things together,” Hoyer told the students. He noted the U.S. has lost nine million manufacturing jobs in the last 20 years to factories overseas.

The students who met with Hoyer told encouraging stories about how academy classes have helped them locate the road that could put them on a positive career path.

The classes he has taken at the academy have given student Cody Voegti the ambition to seek a career in nuclear welding or underwater welding, he told Hoyer.

“We have a shortage of skilled welders in America,” said Hoyer.

Career and Technology Academy welding teacher Dwight Bradford said experienced welders can earn an annual six figure salary. One drawback he’s found to recruiting students, however, is their reluctance to commit to going out-of-county many of the jobs are located.