By Christopher Walker. A handful of school districts across the country are partnering with local construction firms and unions to create the next generation of vo-tech schools for high school students. The new charter schools give the industry more control over the curriculum than it had with the previous, strictly public vo-tech schools.

"We didn't like what was happening to vocational education in public schools," Richard Grebel, president of KCI Construction in St. Louis, told the Wall Street Journal. Grebel is board president of the new Construction Careers Center (CCC) in St. Louis.

The local school district provides $7,000 per student annually to CCC, which has about 90 freshmen in its first class. The actual per-student cost to run the school is approximately $12,000 annually. The St. Louis chapter of the Associated General Contractors could provide as much as $6 million in funding, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The school's curriculum covers standard college-prep subjects, but the industry is looking to the school as a long-term solution to the labor crunch in the construction trades. The school's administrator, Lanette Meyer, hopes that today's freshmen will be spending most of their school days on jobsites by the time they are seniors. Similar schools in Reno, Nev., Philadelphia, and Cranston, R.I., opened this fall.

A union-run vo-tech charter in Toledo, Ohio, closed last year because of lack of enrollment, but the St. Louis school had twice as many applicants for this fall as it had in its first year. "I plan to go to college," 15-year-old Reggie Rogers, a student at CCC, told the Wall Street Journal. "But I like having [the vocational training] as back support."