Hundreds of Juneau School District high schoolers were introduced to the basics of drywall, soldering, welding and other construction trades at the fourth Apprenticeship Fair on Wednesday.
Bronson Frye, a union organizer with Painters and Allied Trades Local 1959, stood on stilts instructing students in the basics of drywall, then letting them try it themselves. Frye grew up in Homer and says beginning an apprenticeship two weeks after finishing high school was the best decision he ever made.
"I come to these things because I want to. I really believe in this, I like talking to these kids. I like telling them 'Hey, this is another option that you have,'" he said.
Training Coordinator for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 262 Brad Austin said the apprenticeship fair is different from the average job fair in that they can give kids demonstrations.
"It kind of gives them a feel for what the construction trades do," Austin said. "See if it sparks an interest in some of the kids."
Austin talked about apprenticeship programs, wages - even those beginning their careers can earn almost $100,000 a year, he said - and more.
Many students said they were being exposed to some new trades for the first time.
"I'm just kind of seeing what's here," said freshman Jaden Sierra. "I don't know much about it, so I'm just learning what it's about."
"I think the drywall is really cool," said Taylee Escalante, a freshman. "You get to fix stuff."
The School of Career Education partnered with the Juneau Construction Academy to host the fair at the University of Alaska Southeast Technical Education Center. Sheet Metal Workers Local 23, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1547/ACS, Plumbers/Pipefitters Local 262, Operating Engineers 302, Piledrivers 2520/Ironworkers 751, Carpenters Local 2247, Painters and Allied Trades Local 1959, and the UAS Construction Technology Program were on hand to give demonstrations and provide information.
The Construction Education Foundation and the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development provided assistance.
Fair co-coordinator with the Alaska Works Partnership, an outreach and training consortium of trade unions and their apprenticeship programs, and school board member Ed Flanagan said almost 1,000 Juneau school district students in grades eight through 12 will have attended the fair by the end of today.
"College is great. A lot of us went to college before we became construction workers. But if anybody tells you you have to go to a four-year college to get a good job, they're lying to you," Flanagan said, adding that the apprenticeship programs are competitive and require hard work. "We just want them to be aware. ... They've got the opportunities at the high school level and here at UAS."
The district's eighth graders will attend the fair today.
Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.