Local students were able to get out of the classroom Thursday to learn more about the hands-on work of construction, welding and plumbing.
The occasion was the 19th annual Construction Career Day, which brings hundreds of students together to learn from roughly 20 exhibitors. They use their booths to teach students how to use a blow-torch, lay bricks or simply answer general questions.
The goal of the event is to introduce students to new career paths.
“It’s critically important that young people get exposed to as many things as they can before they pick their career options,” said State Senator Joe Robach, who bragged about his son being an electrician. “But this is so nice because it’s hands on and you can learn firsthand and meet other people. If you do the work and you follow the course they are great fields but you have to have the skill.”
In addition to showing students how to use tools, exhibitors also discussed the path to the job, how much they’re paid and answered general interest questions from the students.
Joe’l Rodriguez, 16, is a student at University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men. He said he was already somewhat familiar with construction because of his father’s work in the field but is now seriously considering a job in the field for himself.
“I was interested in it a little bit but now I’m really [interested] now,” he said. “I might really look into this as a career later on in the future.”
Climbing into the large cranes and moving construction trucks, blaring the horns. While the day was meant to educate, it also allowed youth a chance to explore and have fun. Organizers of the event say this approach can counteract the drab image trade work has among people. It can also stand out because many students complain about school being boring.
“The construction industry does not enjoy a visible and positive image among youth,” states NY Construction Careers Days’ website. “Construction Career Days is designed to educate our youth about a friendlier and more professional industry that cares about them and their future.”
“We certainly all want the best for our children,” said Monroe County Exeutive Cheryl Dinolfo said with so much focus on college, the Career Day can show students with other interests paths for them. “I’m a mother of three and a grandmother of three and I want the best for mine as well. But I think sometimes we don’t take the opportunity to expose our young people to many different avenues to fulfillment and a career path.”
Dinolfo said families sometimes tend to focus on college as students’ only post-graduation path. This can be because they don’t know the benefits of trade work or because they think college is more glamorous, but she said it locks out youth who could be great tradespeople and ultimately contributes to a shortage of skilled laborers.
“The one thing I hear over and over again is that we have good paying jobs. Not even jobs, careers that have wonderful wages attached to them and benefits that will certainly fulfill a lifetime of opportunity for individuals and families in our communities.”
Dinolfo was unable to provide exact numbers about the shortage but cities and states across the nation have reported their own shortages as well. Dinolfo said that with major redevelopment occurring at the Seneca Park Zoo and Rochester International Airport, a shortage can have negative impacts, including on safety and overall quality.