During four days this week, more than 1,400 middle school and high school students from across the Metro East participated in the Southern Illinois Builders and Southern Illinois Construction Advancement Program Association’s 21st annual Metro Construction Career Expo.
The event, held at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville, afforded young people the chance for a hands-on experience courtesy of SIBA member union locals. From Oct. 28-31, students took their turn learning how to operate an orbital welder, tie rebar, stamp decorative concrete, walk a beam and operate a self-feeding screw gun, all under close supervision of skilled tradespeople. Students also learned how much money they can earn if they choose a career in the trades.
“It’s an exceptional opportunity for young people to learn exactly what each of the trades does and of the careers that are available to them,” said Donna Richter, SIBA chief executive officer. “Students are often pushed toward college degrees and aren’t aware of the viable financial, educational and experiential career paths within their grasp in the skilled trades. We’re here to share it with them, and to make sure they understand what a tremendous future they have waiting for them in the construction industry.”
Represented at the SIBA career fair were: Boilermakers Local 363, Bricklayers Local 8, Southern Illinois Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Program, Operative Plasterers & Cement Masons Local 90, Electricians, Iron Workers Local 392, Illinois Laborers & Contractors Joint Apprenticeship & Training Program, Operating Engineers Local 520, Painter’s District Council 58, Plumbers and Pipefitters Locals 101 and 553, Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 360, Roofers and Waterproofers Local No. 2, Sheet Metal Workers Local 268 and Steamfitters Local 439.
Jamie McMillan, a journeyman iron worker/boilermaker and founder of KickAss Careers, spoke to each class of students at the start of their career expo session. McMillan is a motivational speaker who travels across North America encouraging more than 25,000 students annually to consider the opportunities that accompany a career in the skilled trades. McMillan’s life was transformed when she grabbed hold of an opportunity to secure a career in the trades.
“Iron workers put the bones into buildings and boilermakers build the organs and vessels of the building,” she said. “Your career is going to occupy one-third of your life. Make sure you find a career in which you love what you do. Life is like mountain climbing,” added McMillan, who is a mountain climber. “Pick your mountain and get to the top.”