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    BELLEVILLE — The Southern Illinois Builders Association and the Southern Illinois Construction Advancement Program will play host to the 18th Annual Metro Construction Career Expo from Oct. 31 through Nov. 4, to give students and parents a better understanding of the variety of construction trades careers available.
    Themed, “Earn While You Learn with No College Debt,” the Expo will be held at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds, 200 South Belt East, Belleville. An estimated 1,000 students from St. Clair, Madison and Monroe Counties will visit with their schools during the day and gain hands-on-experience as they participate in interactive activities at booths manned by representatives of the various trades, including painters, carpenters, cement masons, electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, laborers, ironworkers, sheet metal workers, operating engineers and plasterers.
    The public is invited to participate in a special parent/student evening event from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3. During the evening session, parents attending by themselves or with their children will be able to visit different stations for each of the trades to chat with representatives. Among topics will be the suggested curriculum choices and relevant skills needed. Participants will be provided with takeaway information, including wage and fringe benefit packages for the individual careers.
    Thousands of skilled workers in the construction trades are set to retire this decade. The jobs to be filled are accompanied by a high wage, averaging almost $33 per hour plus benefits of $22 per hour, for a total of $55 per hour. Individuals pursuing this path also have the advantage of being able to earn while they learn, as their participation in an apprenticeship program makes them part of the workforce from day one.
    “As more jobs begin to open up, it is important for us to raise awareness about the tremendous opportunities the construction trades offer for students seeking a secure future,” said Donna Richter, chief executive officer of SIBA. “Many families do not realize the stability, on-the-job training, high-wages and great benefits that come with a career in one of the many construction trades in our region. Knowing more about the opportunities will help pave the way for more of today’s youth to be ready to start a successful career with just a high school diploma or equivalent.”  
    The Metro Construction Career Expo is an important event in the ongoing outreach initiative, “Manufacture Your Future/Craft Your Future – A Career that Pays in Southwestern Illinois.” The campaign, led by the region’s two workforce investment boards, is aimed at connecting high school students to almost 3,000 high-paying jobs soon to be available in the manufacturing and construction sectors throughout Southwestern Illinois.  
    For more information about the Metro Construction Career Expo, or to sign up a school group to attend, contact Donna Richter at SIBA at (618) 624-9055.