KENAI — The pounding of nails, honking heavy equipment horns and buzzing of metal-cutting saws made an educational ruckus at the Soldotna Sports Center parking lot on Tuesday, where students from area high schools were getting a hands-on education in various Alaska construction fields.
More than 350 students from Kenai Peninsula schools attended Alaska Construction Career Day. Specialty construction companies and labor unions opened shop to show students what some of their options are, if they are considering a career in the construction industry.
Jesse Settlemyer, a teacher at Skyview High School, brought students from his career pathways class to the event.
“It gives them a good introduction to what’s out there for potential jobs and internships,” he said.
Norma Lucero, on-the-job support services coordinator at the Alaska Department of Transportation and construction day coordinator, has seen a lot of benefits from the event.
“They learn what the actual trade entails,” Lucero said. “It’s a full-day of hands-on activities. It’s not the typical job fair.”
Beyond learning about the various construction fields, students also have the opportunity to have one-on-one dialogues with people who work in the industry. Lucero thinks those conversations are the most beneficial part of the event for students. Whether it’s with employers or training programs, students have the opportunity to discuss apprenticeship programs.
With a shortage of skilled, residential construction workers in Alaska, Loretta Knudson-Spalding, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District career guidance liaison, said, “The workforce in Alaska needs these students to consider these careers.”
Lucero pointed out two financial benefits of an apprenticeship versus studying at a college or university.
“You get paid while you learn,” she said. “And you finish out debt free.”
Jordan Hargreaves, a junior at Seward High School, will be making a choice between the two options soon.
“I kind of want to go to college for petroleum technician, but construction is really fun,” she said.
Whether considering a career in construction or just exploring their options, students learned about multiple areas of the field from carpentry to welding to metal cutting. Some students also tested their tolerance for heights in a hydraulic lift bucket.
“It was fun,” Sage Hill, a Skyview freshman, said about his ride in the bucket. Hill, who’s is considering a career in electrical or building construction, said the only thing that could top that construction day experience would be if he got to drive the bulldozer.
Students didn’t get to drive the machinery, but they did get to sit in the driver’s seat of semi-trucks and other heavy equipment.
This was the third annual Alaska Construction Career Day held at the sports center. The Alaska DOT and the Public Facilities Civil Rights Office sponsor the event.