Florida contractors got the chance to peer into the future of the construction industry in February.
For three days, approximately 1,500 teenagers from four counties in the west central part of the state converged in Rushkin, FL, near Tampa Bay, for the annual Construction Career Days.
This event is one of three held each year in different regions of Florida.
Construction Career Days is anything but a job fair.
Instead, it is intended to be “an educational opportunity exposing middle and high school students to careers in the road and bridge construction industry that they may have never thought of or considered,” said Valerie Tutor, one of the event’s organizers.
While the students are still too young to be hired on the spot, “we hope to influence their career choices in the future as well as their future educational track,” she said.
At the events, the next of which will be held April 5 to 7 in the Orlando area, students get to meet the people who have made the industry their career, from engineers to heavy equipment operators.
But they also get a hands-on feel for the work.
Booths and tri-fold display boards traditionally seen at events such as these are replaced with “learning labs.”
At the stations, Tutor said students learn about steel tying, concrete design, milling and paving, soil identifications and other tasks performed daily in the industry.
Alice Rassmussen, vice president of government affairs for the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association, said the event helps to “expose the students to an alternative to college.”
Many of them are already involved in technical education and will likely pursue a path other than a traditional four-year college.
Among the people representing the companies this year was one man who Tutor said became interested in the industry by attending Construction Career Days while he was in high school.
The events were initiated several years ago at the request of the Federal Highway Association, which still allocates money to pay for them. The rest of the tab is picked up by industry sponsors.
Bob Minichbauer, the branch manager for Flagler Construction Equipment’s Tampa location, said the event isn’t about promoting his business — it’s about promoting the industry.
Construction Career Days “puts a positive image on the industry and shows these high school students that the industry has a future,” he said.
As a full-line Volvo dealer, Minichbauer brought to the event an L25 compact loader and an EC25 compact excavator for the students to test out.
“They did a great job. I was amazed at how easily they took to the machines,” he said.
Flagler has been a participant since the event’s inception and, in that time, has attracted one employee to the company. Minichbauer said he saw some great prospects this year for future employees.
Any student who chooses to enter Florida’s construction industry is doing so at the right time. With development booming throughout the state, Flagler said people who are educated and who want to learn a skill will be able to land a secure job that pays well. CEG Staff