In an event that redefined tradition, a high school valedictorian took a pass on possibly attending an Ivy League school to sign on for a union carpenter apprenticeship. Michael Taing, Class 2023 Valedictorian at Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia, committed to signing a formal agreement to join the four-year apprenticeship program with the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters (EAS Carpenters).
Taing, the son of Cambodian immigrants, decided to forgo the usual college route for a stellar high school student and pursue a career that valued hard work, persistence, and practical knowledge.
He participated in the Carpenters Apprenticeship Ready Program (CARP) in high school, which gives students an overview of the duties and skills needed for a career as a union carpenter. He also achieved the highest career test score conducted by the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute.
“If you want something, you have to work hard for it,” said Taing during his June 6 signing ceremony. He will work directly with Turner Construction during his EAS Carpenters apprenticeship.
Sean McPeake, trades manager for Turner Construction, praised Taing during the ceremony and welcomed him to the team. “We had an awesome experience signing Michael Taing from the beginning of his career to his apprenticeship,” said McPeake. “I cannot speak more in volume
about that decision to not follow the book of what everyone else does.”
Philadelphia Councilwoman Katherine Gilmore Richardson urged other students in attendance to consider following a similar post-graduate career. “I want to encourage all the young people here to look and figure out if you can find a space and place in labor through one of the pre-apprenticeship programs, just like Michael did, your future will be very, very bright,” Gilmore Richardson said.
Michael Taing’s distinctive approach to his career was not lost on Conlan Crosley, an EAS Carpenter, and instructor of Building Trades and Property Maintenacen Program at Benjamin Franklin High School. “Today was a great, outstanding event,” Crosley said. “We’ve celebrated Michael Taing, our valedictorian. He signed his letter of intent to work with the [union] Brotherhood with Turner Construction. I can’t thank Turner Construction enough.”
Crosely makes sure as an instructor at the Benjamin Frankling High School he is able to provide each student with the ability to find a pathway for themselves. Not every student has the skills and abilities like Michael. Some will have skills and ability that will make them perfect for another trade or job prospect, and Crosely makes it a priority to find what works best for each student.
The Carpenters Union’s four-year program will expose Michael Taing to an array of skills, including commercial carpentry, mill cabinet work, pile driving, commercial diving, floor laying millwright work, trade show carpentry and residential carpentry.
As the high school valedictorian, Michael Taing’s journey serves as a guidepost for all high school graduates, that a promising and rewarding career, with financial security, awaits them in the trades if they simply make an effort.