More than 100 area students got an up-close glimpse at a career in the trades during the Construction Industry Career Expo Thursday at Portzen Construction Co. in Dubuque.
The expo features 10 trade demonstrations, allowing students to do everything from hook up electrical wiring to operate a jackhammer.
Kelly Cooper, executive director of Dubuque Area Labor-Management Council, said the event allows union representatives to show students what they do, rather than just tell them.
“We really wanted to make this as hands-on as possible,” Cooper said. “These students learn more by actually doing things.”
Cooper said representatives from nine local unions are taking part in the event. It is sponsored by the Alliance for Construction Excellence, a committee of Dubuque Area Labor-Management Council.
The two-day event continues today and is expected to be attended by about 300 students from nearly a dozen area high schools.
Logan Kelly, a senior at Maquoketa (Iowa) High School, was among the attendees Thursday. He is enrolled in a welding academy, which is offered at his school in conjunction with Clinton Community College.
Attending the expo gave him a chance to further explore his post-graduation options.
“I don’t necessarily want to go to college, and I am still figuring out the best thing to do,” he said. “An apprenticeship seems like a pretty good option. It seems like a nice way to work your way into a profession.”
Kayla Busch, a senior at Cuba City (Wis.) High School, said she is leaning toward going to school for nursing, but she hasn’t ruled out a job in the trades. She said she particularly enjoyed operating a jackhammer Thursday.
She acknowledged that she was one of the few female students in the male-dominated crowd.
“I think the guys tend to think they’re the only ones who can do this kind of work,” she said. “I wanted to show everyone girls can do these things, too.”
Jim Flogel, of Carpenters Union Local 678, said such events are critical to the future of local unions.
“Every trade needs good employees, and those workers are not easy to find,” he said. “What we are doing is trying to plant that seed early. We want to make kids aware of their options.”
Cooper noted that local unions also work with high school counselors to convey the opportunities available in the trades.
“I think counselors are at that point where they are not trying to push all students into four-year programs,” she said. “They are making these students aware of other options.”