by Colleen Suo
HERKIMER, NY — The Herkimer BOCES campus was the site for the second annual 7th Grade Construction Career Day on May 6.
Chris Groves, Director of the Schools to Careers program at the center explained, “This is a BOCES collaboration of three locations, that is hosting 350 students today covering 20 school districts. We have 45 trade exhibitors — most with hands-on demos.” The purpose of the program is to “expose the students through meaningful experience to various trades that are available as careers. Building and construction trades have evolved over time — even the definitions of what these trades are has changed.”
Last year’s event was held at the New Hartford, NY campus and had a student attendance of about 100. Groves attributes the large increase to the excitement last year’s event generated not just among the students, but their parents as well.
According to Groves, their goal is to take “a regionalized approach — not letting district borders limit the students’ options in being exposed to the variety of jobs and trades available today.” He added, “We need to reach the dinner table conversations, that is where we will have the most impact. Today’s event is about creating meaningful opportunities for students to apply 21st century skills in the profession.”
The career day offers these children the opportunity to have a hands-on experience at most of the exhibitor’s stations. Each school’s group of students entered welcome center / staging area to receive their hard hats, eye protection goggles and a knap-sack to hold the various giveaways and literature from each area.
The BOCES vocational complex is the perfect setting for a construction career day. Already stocked with carpentry, masonry and metal working classrooms as well as ample outdoor areas for vendor staging, the students moved from exhibit to exhibit seamlessly in regular intervals.
Many of the exhibitors had attended last year’s event for the 7th graders. Gary Bernardo of the NYS Laborers Union Local 35 shared the various construction trades their union represents and mentioned during his brief overview that “the average age of today’s construction worker is 47 and with the recent passage of infrastructure bills at the Federal level, there will be steady work for the major areas of construction for at least 20 years.”
He shared the importance of exposing the teens early enough to the large variety of work options. “Even at this age it’s good for them to see there are different options to college. Not everyone will be college bound. We explain that if they enter the apprenticeship programs as a senior or right out of high school, not only will they not have to worry about paying off a college loan, they can get paid to learn a valuable skill.”
He explained and demonstrated the importance of safety harness equipment a group boys and girls, emphasizing, “Safety is Job One.”
The BOCES program holds a similar event in the fall for juniors and seniors. A refresher course – so to speak. At the event last fall, Bernardo said they had several students — boys and girls — asking for business cards and information on how to apply for apprenticeships in a number of trades.
At the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters exhibit, the emphasis was on opportunity for men and women in the construction trades. Bill Maxim and Chris Austin, excited for the opportunity to plant the seeds in the young minds, demonstrated the skill and patience needed for manually driving nails into framing boards at their demo booth. They explained that through the carpentry course at BOCES, a young person entering as an apprentice would start at a higher ranking within the Brotherhood.
The heavy equipment stations were teeming with excitement for these boys and girls. At the IUOE (Upstate NY Operating Engineers) area, students took turns at the controls of a Terex Stinger BT4792 in a series of precision moves aided by Greg Tucker of Local 158.
Classmates cheered on Ian Russell of Westmoreland School as he tried his hand at a scaled-up version of ring toss — using tires and hazard cones. This exercise enabled those who took part to experience the concentration and hand-eye coordination necessary to this position.
Several pieces of New Holland equipment dotted the back lot area. These items, supplied by Clinton Tractor Supply included, a B95B backhoe loader, W50C compact wheel loader and an L230 skid steer.
Although they were not allowed to actually drive or move this equipment, the students were supervised as they operated the various buckets and attachments, learning a new respect for this type of machinery. Also on-site were a handful of industrial sized mowers.
During the ironwork demonstration, the students got to experience the ‘nuts and bolts’ of building on a large scale. Students from Owen D. Young School listened intently to their instructor on the joys and hazards of high ironwork then proceeded to attach an I-beam section between two posts — “two bolts in each end, wrench tight.”
Michael Moran (Local 58 SMART) at the sheet metal station wasn’t able to do any hands-on with the students, but they brought samples of end products and discussed the fine math skills needed for this trade. “Since the sheet metal is so sharp, we’re not able to do hands-on demonstrations with this age group, but we go over the need of sheet metal workers in most construction jobs and emphasize to the girls, that this is a very viable trade for women to excel in.”
Schools to Careers Liaison, MaryBeth Napolitano expressed everyone’s focus of the day, “It’s all about the exposure to different trades. The young people — all they hear about is being doctors or other professionals. Who built the hospital? Who will build their houses? We want them to at least start thinking about these things at a younger age. We want to be able to equip these boys and girls for 21st Century workplace skills.”