Masonry, welding, carpentry and concrete work were just some of trades area freshmen and sophomores learned about on Wednesday. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent
SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor
Approximately 300 freshmen and sophomore students from seven local school districts received hands-on experience in the various building trades during Day No. 1 of the Build Your Future 2022 event, held at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds on Wednesday.
The second annual event, which continues today for about 300 more students, is a partnership between local employers, Vantage Career Center, the Van Wert Area Economic Development Corporation and Ohio Means Jobs. Alexander & Bebout President Sara Zura was a driving force behind the event.
“The goal is to introduce students to the trades, so we have five trades from Vantage here, carpentry, construction, welding, industrial mechanics and electricity, and we have partnered with the instructors and students to really give a hands-on experience,” Zura explained. “We want to get them interested in the trades and show them the local opportunities that are available for careers and that maybe they don’t have to go to college to have a successful career.”
Between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. over the two day period, students from Van Wert, Crestview and Lincolnview, along with Delphos Jefferson and Delphos St. John’s, Parkway and Wayne Trace had the chance learn to a bit about wiring lightbulbs, operating various pieces of construction equipment, drill through concrete, using tools to frame walls, HVAC, welding and more inside and outside of three buildings at the fairgrounds. Once rain moved later in the morning, some of the stations were pushed inside.
“How many kids get the opportunity to run an excavator, frame a wall, run a welder, lay out masonry or pour concrete?” Zura said during the event. “Doing it as freshmen and sophomores gives us the opportunity to put them at Vantage and then come to the local employers here.”
The fast paced environment called for students to move from station to seven every seven minutes, and each student had to participate at each trade station.
Van Wert Workforce Development Manager Jane Schmid noted for many of the students in attendance, it’s the first time they’ve been exposed to the various trades.
“Some of these kids are from a farm and have welded or whatever but others, not so much,” Schmid said. “What we do is we give all the kids a survey to fill out and we want them to tell us what their top five activities were out of the 20 here, and we want them to tell us if they’re thinking more about the construction trade than before. We received feedback and what we found that Van Wert City Schools, the biggest school in the mix, 47 percent of the kids said they were thinking about skilled trades when they hadn’t prior.”
“We’re trying to fill the pipeline,” she continued. “In 2021 there were 430,000 more construction trade jobs open than the prior year and it’s only going to get worse. Bob used to be plumber and now he’s retiring, Bob Jr. learned the trade coming up through the ranks but we don’t have that any more. They can start out at $60,000-$65,000 and you can learn while the sky is the limit.”
Vantage Career Center Superintendent Rick Turner local businesses are always concerned about recruiting a good workforce.
“This event showcases their needs, so it’s a win-win for everyone,” Turner said.
Build Your Future grew from the three Van Wert County schools last year to seven this year and Schmid said it’s possible future events will grow to include all 13 Vantage Career Center member schools.
She also thanked the local employers who took time to participate in the event, including set up time on Monday, plus three hours of instruction Wednesday and today.
“They spent a lot of man hours and money just making this happen and so it’s worth it to them – it’s a marketing effort, it’s filling the pipeline,” Schmid stated. “It’s a huge collaborative. It’s not only Vantage, it’s Alexander & Bebout, Ayers Mechanical, All Temp Refrigeration, Moorman & Overholt Electric, National Door and Trim, Metzger Masonry, and the fair board.”
Ohio Means Jobs provided each student with a 25 foot tape measure and Fastenal donated earplugs.
Article courtesy of the VW Independent.