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Students learn to construct the future

Duluth East High School sophomore Ally Dahl walks across a steel beam. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 6
Duluth East sophomore Kasey Davis gets hands on as she learns cement work from second year cement mason apprentice Marissa Goodsky. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 6
Duluth Denfeld sophomore David Croud learns how to operate an elevator from Jeff Burns in the National Elevator Industry Educational Program booth at Construct Tomorrow. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)3 / 6
Duluth Denfeld sophomore Gianna Torres tries her hand at spray painting a wall through a simulation with some instruction from Fredy Castellanos of the Finishing Trades Institute booth at Construct Tomorrow on March 7. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)4 / 6
Nick Sater, sophomore at Duluth Denfeld, learns to weld via simulation under the guidance of Tom Baker of the Millwrights Local 1348 at Construct Tomorrow. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)5 / 6
Duluth East sophomore Grace Hollander smiles as she olds the end of electrical wires and receives instruction from electrical worker Mike Manderfeld at Construct Tomorrow on March 7. (Photo by Teri Cadeau6 / 6

The best way to learn is by doing. At least, that's the methodology behind last week's construction trade showcase for high school students.

Area high school students received hands-on opportunities to experience work performed in different building and construction trade careers at the Construct Tomorrow event at the DECC on March 7 and 8. Students troweled cement, simulated welding and spray painting, laid bricks and walked across steel beams in the various stations staffed by representatives of 14 local union apprenticeship programs.

"We want to let the students know about the opportunities that are out there in the union construction trades," said Larry Gilbertson of Ironworkers Local 512. "A big significant portion of our workers are baby boomers who are getting ready to retire, so there are big shoes to fill. About half of our union members in the construction trade are over 45 years of age. About 25 percent, like myself, are over 55 years of age and getting ready to retire in the next 10 years."

Representatives were available to speak with students about their experiences and answer questions about the "earn-as-you-learn" apprenticeships available.

"It's a way of learning without building up a lot of debt," Gilbertson said. "Partly why I started in the trade was because I wanted to work for about a year to earn money then go back to college. That was 33 years ago. I truly love the work that I do and the men and women I work with."

Students were encouraged to ask questions and check out all of the booths. For several, it was an eye-opening experience.

"I never really thought about sheet metal working before," said Denfeld High School sophomore Nate Mertes. "But I thought it was really cool how everybody was really open to talking about their jobs. They were really excited to share their trades with us. It's given me a lot to think about."

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

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