Northern Nevada Construction Career Day held at Reno Livestock Event Center
In order to increase interest in construction and other trade careers, the Nevada Construction Collaboration held the first Northern Nevada Construction Career Day for middle and high school students.
More than 650 students from all over Northern Nevada gathered at the Reno Livestock Event Center last week to talk with a number of construction businesses and organizations.
“We have a dire shortage in the construction workforce,” said Aaron West, CEO of the Nevada Builders Alliance. “In the school system there is so much emphasis on going to college and that leaves a lot of kids with debt and no real trade to fall back on.”
West said it’s important to give the students hands on exposure to the different construction crafts so when they’re ready to graduate high school they have knowledge of different paths that can be taken. The construction industry is currently the sixth largest employer in Nevada with more than 76,000 jobs across the state.
“We want people to understand that we don’t want to skip education, we just want to show kids that there are other paths,” West said. “We are not saying that you are done once you finish high school, you are just starting and there is a multitude of options.”
In most Nevada school districts, an emphasis has been placed on STEM courses in order to expand student interest to more math and science career options, and the CTE path is incorporated in that. To show schools how important it is, Gov. Brian Sandoval had a representative from his office to present a proclamation at the career day, that the month of October is recognized as Careers in Construction month, as a way to help shift the public perception of careers in the construction field.
“During this month, employers, associations and schools are encouraged to conduct job fairs, panel discussions and community events to inform students and the community of the employment opportunities in the construction industry in the State of Nevada and across the country,” the proclamation read.
West and the other organizers with the Nevada Construction Collaboration worked with the Washoe County School District and their counselors to establish the career day for students. He said he couldn’t have done it without the district opening up the exposure to the Career and Technical Education Path.
It wasn’t just Washoe County schools that participated. Students from Fernley, Carson, Lyon, Douglas and Yerington were all present at the career day. For Marry Jane Howard, a junior at Silver Springs High School, the trip was successful for helping expand her career possibilities.
“I live in Silver Springs so you don’t see a lot of things like this,” Howard said. “… I didn’t know there were so many different options under construction.”
Most of the students were interested in CTE, so they were engaged and interested in the hands on activities at many of the exhibitors.
“It is huge to have the hands on component because you can tell kids to think of construction but what does it mean?” West said. “But to tell them to come and see, they can see the depths of it and as they come to the end of high school and maybe they can’t afford college or don’t want to go, they can say ‘there was that one time I learned about construction.’”
Nearly 60 companies for electric, contractors, unions, landscapers and much more were present to show students what they can do in the construction path. There were several stations the students rotated to: an outdoor area for big equipment, and education section and the career expo. The students were able to learn hands on through different power tools, equipment and even through virtual reality to see what some of the companies do.
“There is a shortage of workers and we want to start creating interest in the jobs and encourage school kids because in four to five years we will need them because there is that need,” said Mark Gordine.
This concept isn’t new, school districts in Southern Nevada have been creating similar career days for CTE students for several years.
West said their main goal is to expose as many students as possible so they can generate more interest once the kids are out of school and to continue to grow the program each year.
“We want to create awareness to pursue this career,” West said. “This year we had 700 students but let’s see if every year we can get 1,000 kids to create that momentum and impact.”
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