Students learn to construct the future
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."