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Tom Elder, right, an apprentice with Sheet Metal Workers Local 20 chats with students

Careers start in high school for Indiana's students

Contributed By: The 411 News

WorkOne and the Construction Advancement Foundation invited students to learn about the building trades

Ami Reese and Kevin Comerford tallied the visitors -- over 1,100 students from 26 high schools made it worthwhile for sponsors of the Construction & Skilled Trades Day held last week at the Lake County Fairgrounds.

And it was worthwhile for the visitors too, since the Trades Day will put some of the students on track to satisfy Indiana's new requirements to earn a high school diploma.

One of the requirements starting with the graduating class of 2023, Indiana students must show that they are ready to move on from high school to employment, postsecondary education at a college or trade school, an apprenticeship program or qualify for military service. By their sophomore year, students must select a course of study they will continue until graduation, whether its college prep, construction trades or other career courses offered at their schools.

The new graduation requirements are part of the framework of the Indiana Dept. of Education's Next Level of Programs Study (NLPS), designed to prepare the state's workforce for jobs and careers that are in demand, and provide high wages.

Reese is Director of Marketing & Communications for the Center of Workforce Innovation, which oversees 9 WorkOne offices in northwest Indiana. "We are the employment office, not the unemployment office," Reese said. "We provide no-cost career and employment assistance for job seekers, employers, and young adults. That high school diploma is the first step to a six-figure salary."

Comerford is Director of Professional Development for the Construction Advancement Foundation of Northwest Indiana, a regional construction industry trade association. CAF is a one-stop shop for students to learn about construction industry career opportunities and all the building trades apprenticeship programs -- their requirements, and how and when to apply.

Representatives from 16 building trades were showcased at Skilled Trades Day.

Students swamped the Sheet Metal Workers Local 20 booth, where union apprentices helped the students build a tool box they would take with them. Brent Hoag, a Local 20 apprenticeship instructor said his union brings in a new class of 30 apprentices each year in August. The metal workers' apprenticeship program takes 5 years to complete.

In Lake County, construction industry workers earn on average $80,000 yearly and rank in the top 5 for salaries.

Chatting with the students were two Local 20 apprentices, Jose Julian and Tom Elder, who said students taking building trades courses in high school have better chances of going directly into an apprenticeship program. Julian and Elder entered as apprentices after they had tried other careers.

Julian was working on a loading dock for a trucking company when he was accepted for the apprenticeship program. He had done part-time work with small building contractors and then went on to a trade school.

Elder said, "I saw after college I wasn't going anywhere. I had worked on temporary HVAC jobs during summers. Five years ago, I joined the sheet metal apprenticeship program." Both said the construction industry offered salaries and benefits they wouldn't have obtained in their earlier positions.

Skilled Trades Day offered another entry path to the construction trades through the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Job Corps, which targets teens and young adults, ages 16-24. Gary Fields, Jr. is a member of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, and an instructor in the pre-apprentice painting program at the Paul Simon Job Corps Center in Chicago.

"My job is to teach these young adults how to paint, how to do drywall, how to mud and sandblast," Fields said. "When I send them to the union, they are ready to go." Job Corps also helps its students get their high school diploma or GED.

Sheet Metal Workers Local 20 Apprentice Program’s (l-r) Brent Hoag, Jose Julian, and Tom Elder

Students from the Paul Simon Job Corps Pre-Apprenticeship Painters’ program (l-r) Gustavo Reyes, Jr., Jaren Nunez, Jadon Cunningham, Antonio Hearn, Clara Muhammad, with instructors Hank Lorenz and Gary Fields, Jr.

Story Posted:11/20/2023

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