The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 15, 2013

Students try on hard hats to see how a construction career fits

By The Building Tradesman

By Cathy Knight

Delta-Schoolcraft I.S.D.

“Wow, I can’t believe I can get paid to do this stuff!” commented an Escanaba student who attended the Industrial Trades Career Day October 3rd in Escanaba.  The career fair gave 375 students from nine area schools the opportunity to learn about career opportunities in the trades. 

Employers like Payne & Dolan, CR Meyer and UPPCO, along with Michigan Tech University and workers from 14 trades met with students throughout the morning and afternoon sessions.  Trades represented included the ironworkers, boilermakers, carpenters, operating engineers, and others.  Students were able to get the “feel of the trade” at several locations throughout the site by participating in hands-on demonstrations like operating backhoes, laying block and stone, welding, and competitions pounding nails.

“It was a blast” said Gladstone senior and ISD computer technician student, Heidi Wedell.  “We got to talk to the professionals who actually work in the trades.  I operated the paving and excavating equipment, rode the boom lift, and tried masonry work.  My plan is to go to college, but if that doesn’t work out, I’m going to apply for the painters apprenticeship program.”

The event was sponsored primarily by the U.P. Construction Council, Delta-Schoolcraft ISD, Michigan Works, the Delta County College Access Network (DCCAN) and the local trades.  “The day was outstanding.  I think the kids enjoyed it and learned a lot,” said Tony Retaskie, event organizer and executive director of the U.P. Construction Council.  “We are anticipating a need for 200,000 additional skilled workers annually.  With yearly wages of $38,000 to $75,000 depending on the trade and hours worked, paid apprenticeship training, and freedom to travel and work anywhere, students have good opportunities for high paying, high demand careers after high school.”

DCCAN promotes post secondary education for students in Delta County, and according to Sara Cole, DCCAN Director, “The skilled trades offer viable options for students interested in technical trade careers, and this event was a great way to gain exposure to these career pathways.” 

So what’s it like operating a backhoe?  “Operating the backhoe was pretty cool…it took a second to get used to it but after that it was great!” commented Manistique sophomore, Landon Burton.

Gladstone senior and ISD welding student, Trent Harvala, was able to strap on the gear used by electrical line technicians, and get an idea of what it is like when your worksite is at the top of an electrical pole.  “Climbing the pole was harder than it looked, but it was fun trying it out, and gave me confidence that I could do that part of the job. The whole day was awesome.”           

Said ISD Career Tech Center Director Luke Siebert: “This was a great experience for all the students who participated. They were able to discover new career options and walk away with more confidence after talking with workers and experiencing hands-on activities with the equipment.”