More than 1,600 students within the Washoe County School District donning hot pink construction hats are gathered in the space, visiting around 40 industry experts within the local building and skilled trade industry to learn about the various opportunities available to them after high school.
Walking into Meeting Hall 5 of the Reno-Sparks Convention Center on Oct. 14, there’s a huge rush of energy, hustle and bustle. More than 1,600 students within the Washoe County School District donning hot pink construction hats are gathered in the space, visiting around 40 industry experts within the local building and skilled trade industry to learn about the various opportunities available to them after high school.
This is the fifth annual Construction Career Day, where a coalition of construction industry associations and companies including the Builders Association of Northern Nevada, the Nevada Chapter Associated General Contractors, and the Nevada Apprenticeship Coordinators Association band together and work with the WCSD to show kids all kinds of fun, interesting, and professional jobs they could have in the building industry. This annual event also serves to dispel the myths and stigmas about skilled trades while helping recruit the next generation of workforce.
“Too often construction jobs are thought of as an alternative to college,” said Local 350 Pipe Trades Apprenticeship Program Training Coordinator Randy Canale. “The registered apprenticeship programs offered through the NNACA organization are college. A registered apprenticeship offers the opportunity for an individual to learn a trade and earn a living wage while learning and receive college credit while doing so.”
From North Valleys High School, agriculture mechanics teacher Gilbert Lenz is walking around with students in his agriculture technology, welding, construction mechanics, and CAD programs. Sophomore Chase Busick is excited to be there, believing that this event helps him plan for his future while also enabling his generation to grow as a society. His dad did residential construction work, which is how he got introduced to the industry. His fellow classmates Teagan Reilley and Lolesio Moli also had parents that work in construction and welding.
Busick says that one of his favorite companies he visited so far was CORE, because they do everything.
“The CORE booth was very interesting,” Moli said.
Reilley admits he was more drawn to the welding booths. Busick says that one of the biggest takeaways that he’s gotten from the event so far is learning that working construction can also pay for your education. Reilley adds that he didn’t know that all of these companies were linked together before, and Moli added that it is helping him figure out what direction he’d like to go after high school. Lenz said that even as a teacher, this event helps him get exposed to the local unions and education programs (a few will even help them pay for college) that he can then pass on to his students.
Over at the CORE Construction booth, a middle school kid comes up to get his bingo card stamped.
“Do you like construction?” a CORE representative/field manager named Kinsey asks. The middle schooler shakes his head “no.”
“What do you like doing?” she prompts him.
“I like drawing,” he replies. She then explains all the different things he can do in the construction industry related to drawing and gives him a pencil kit to practice.
CORE Project Manager Andrew Thiel explains that they were there to teach kids about general contracting and the different forms of construction.
“It all doesn’t have to be all hands-on; we’re all field managers and get to help plan projects without necessarily doing the actual construction.”
CORE is strictly a management contractor and provides jobs for people who don’t want to lay brick or do hard labor. It recently worked with the WCSD on building school fields in Stead and was able to engage its middle school students on VIN modeling, pre-construction, and construction of the project.
That day at the construction convention, Thiel believes that well over 200 students have visited the booth, with 60 percent of them interested in construction and 40 percent interested in general contracting. He says that it’s usually high school males most interested in construction, and most of them seem to have family members in the field. CORE subs out every scope of work on its projects, and relay on good trade partners to see them through.
Outside the convention center, a line is formed in front of a 12-foot-tall or so steel beam. A kid is hooked up to a harness and tries to freeclimb to the top of it. On one side of the line, Next Century Rebar teaches kids how to tie them to reinforce concrete while on the other side another company teaches students how to weld.
Careers in the construction industry can provide stable, solid incomes and these types of workers are in high demand. As Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada Secretary/Treasurer Rob Benner put it, “Careers in the skilled construction trades are transformative, lifting families into the middle class. Our registered apprenticeship programs offer earn-while-you-learn opportunities, and we are excited to be a part of Construction Career Day to bring this information to students.”