HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Some Henrico County students are on the job at Regency Square Mall — they’re transforming a 48,000-square-foot section of the mall into 37 classrooms in an effort to expand the division’s adult education program.

Students put on their hard hats and began working on the project this summer. About 40 students who are part of Henrico Schools’ Advanced Career Education (ACE) program performed electrical, masonry and carpentry work.

Mac Beaton, the Director of Workforce and Career Development with Henrico Public Schools, said the students are meeting a need while gaining new skills. 

“The gap in the workforce and the demand for skilled trades — we’re helping to solve that issue by putting students out with the skills that the employers are looking for,” he said.

On Thursday, Sept. 29, high schoolers were rewiring rooms, putting up framing with steel studs and learning from local contractors.

Valerie James, the marketing and business development manager with Mark Turner Construction, said training the future generation is important.

“I’m excited and want to be a part of it myself. An ideal situation is having a skilled worker come and work for you, and so this is a way that we can actually help make that happen,” she said.

Jerell Tisdale, a 17-year-old student at Hermitage High School, has been in the ACE program for more than a year.

“I was a little hesitant at first, because it was shaky for the hard labor,” Tisdale said. “Once I got into it and learned electricity, it was fun. When we came to Regency to do electrical work, I ended up learning a new trade: carpentry. I really enjoyed carpentry a lot.”

Beaton said the project could cost about $900,000 compared to the county putting out a bid and having to pay nearly $3 million for the work.

The adult education program, which has hundreds of students enrolled, serves people in Henrico and in other areas, Beaton told 8News. Now, those who want to earn their GED or those who speak English as a second language will soon have a renovated space to learn in.

“To think about having students do a job of this magnitude is a different way of thinking,” Beaton said.

The ACE students are on track to finish the classrooms by January 2023, according to Beaton. After they complete the program, they’ll be in a position to earn credits and certifications.