Chamber partners with groups to expose students to trade careers
Build My Future OKC, a one-day, hands-on construction career day for high school students across the Oklahoma City area, was recently held at the Exposition Hall at State Fair Park. Hosted by the Professional Women in Building Council of the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association and sponsored by the Chamber and several trade organizations, the event featured interactive, hands-on exhibits from more than 30 exhibitors in the skilled trades and the building industry and provided students valuable insight into potential internships and future employers.
Participating schools sent students for approximately five hours of activities provide activities provided by industry partners.
“Our goal is to get students career-ready, rather than college-ready, by introducing them to a skills-based trade where they can learn a skill that will stay with them forever,” said Marla Esser Cloos, Build My Future OKC planning committee chair.
“We find that many high school juniors and seniors are just not college-ready,” said Cloos. “They aren’t yet sure what they want to do, some have no interest in going to college, while others can’t afford it, but that shouldn’t take them out of the workforce or leave them without opportunities.”
“We’ve got to bring these young people into these industries and we have to teach them the different skills, whether it’s this, whether it’s aerospace, whether it’s engineering,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, who kicked off the occasion with a ribbon-cutting. “So, these events are really important and I see them being replicated across various industries. Anything I can do as mayor to support them and encourage them is good for our community and good for our long-term economy.”
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, skilled trades positions will account for one-third of all new jobs for the next three years. The construction industry is ripe with opportunities for career seekers and there’s no better time for motivated individuals who enjoy working with their hands and having variety in their day-to-day routine to consider entering a career in a skilled trade in the construction industry.
Southmoore High School Career Counselor Mikayla Williford said the event was important for her students to experience. “Half the time they hear about an occupation but they have no clue what it is. This actually gives them a chance to do hands-on things, learn about it and figure out how that actually works, what a job is actually like. It’s invaluable, because they actually do hands-on before they get there and they can decide, do I love it or do I hate it?”
The nearly 500 students from 20 schools in the metro area attending the event looked forward to learning more about the opportunities jobs in the trades might provide.
One high school senior said the event would help decide what she wants to do after gradation because “…it opens up your horizons, you can see what you like, what interests you, and then decide what you want to go into.”
Others said they are looking at all the different types of jobs there are and see what interests them.
“If we don’t start exposing high school students – or younger – to the trades, we’ve lost our opportunity,” said Adam Slattery with the Subcontractors Association of Oklahoma. “We’re not going to have carpenters, electricians, masons, roofers and plumbers in future years. We have many jobs that people would say are ‘uneducated’ positions, no college, some maybe have not even finished high school, that are making $50, $60, some maybe upwards of $70k per year on the top end. The opportunities are endless.”
“We want to introduce high school students to skill-based trades,” said Cloos. “We want to show these students various opportunities – that do not require a four-year college degree – where they can learn a skill that will provide them a stable and steady career.”