Filling the skills gap: Industrial tech teacher readies students for careers

Students explore trades with hands-on learning

Rock Falls High School Industrial Arts instructor Matt Boostrom (left) leads his class on a project Thursday, April 20, 2023 at the school.

ROCK FALLS – Industrial technologies teacher Matt Boostrom shows students that there are skills to learn beyond the traditional classroom setting.

At Rock Falls High School, students can explore trades and gather the knowledge leading to more than just a job but also a successful career.

Welding, automotive repair, woodworking, machining, construction – they’re all part of a focus on career and technical education.

It’s our job to offer the best education for every student.”

—  Matt Boostrom, industrial tech teacher at Rock Falls High School

Before becoming a teacher, Boostrom, a 1998 RFHS graduate, was a journeyman machinist and welder as well as manager of an auto parts store.

He began as a special education teacher in 2005 and moved full time to industrial technology about a decade ago.

“It’s our job to offer the best education for every student,” he said. “If we leave out skilled trades, we’re not reaching every student or teaching to their different passions and learning styles.”

There’s a stigma that success is tied to a degree, but there are so many skills of great value for good, needed jobs, he said.

“People don’t realize how much we depend on these skills,” Boostrom said. “Without these people, society doesn’t run.”

It’s rewarding to see students succeed who might not otherwise in a traditional classroom setting, especially when they gain a new understanding or passion to pursue, he said.

Boostrom has seen students go on to important careers, ranging from working at nuclear power plants to underwater welding, as well as one student becoming one of the top welders in the U.S. Navy.

“Everyone learns differently. Just because they don’t do well in a book-type setting doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent or don’t have something to offer,” he said.

The program has grown throughout the years, evolving in a similar way to the equipment students learn with.

“The administration has invested in this program, and we’re able to teach a lot more modern skills,” Boostrom said.

The school also is part of a manufacturing career pathways program, a partnership with Sauk Valley Community College, the Whiteside Area Career Center and area businesses to give students the skills needed to go into the workforce.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.