Trades Expo Highlights Demand for Construction Workers
The construction business wants young faces. The industry is graying, which is why they were recruiting students at a trades expo Wednesday at Cooper High School.
“Fifty-two years old is the average age of a construction worker,” said John Slama, who is a bricklayer. “They’re retiring out and we just don’t have people coming to replace them.”
The event was dubbed “Construct Tomorrow” and almost every profession of the construction industry was on hand making their pitch to kids.
“We never know what kids we reach when we come here,” Slama said. “But we know this is a way for the trades to get in front of kids and it is a viable option for him.”
“The day of the dumb construction worker does not exist anymore,” said Tom Reger, who is in the concrete business. “These are all highly-skilled trades, with all the crafts that are represented here today. All high-tech stuff.”
More than 600 students were at the expo learning about bricklaying, pipe fitting, concrete work and other phases of the business.
“I didn’t know anything about any of these fields of work,” said Will Barkley, an eighth-grade student. “I got knowledge of multiple fields of work.”
“I liked laying the brick,” said Logan Thompson, another eighth0grade student. “Using my hands, getting my hands dirty.”
The experts at the expo emphasized that construction can be a lucrative career and those breaking in can even get trained at the company’s expense.
“When they come into an apprenticeship they earn while they learn,” Reger said. “When they complete their apprenticeship and turn out to a journey level worker they don’t have any student loans to repay.”
“Some of these kids when you tell them what we can make in a year, their eyes get really big because they have no idea,” Slama said. “You can earn anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000 a year, on your check. Plus another $40,000 in benefits.”
The construction industry is also a profession where you can see tangible results of your labor.
“This is the only craft that can go home and say they have concrete evidence of what they’ve done that day,” Reger said.
A 2017 survey of 40 construction firms in Minnesota found that nearly 80 percent were struggling to fill positions.