By RANDY PIERCE
Students from several high schools from throughout southwestern Illinois attended the 23rd annual Construction Industry Career Expo held in Belleville over a three-day period recently.
Among the many schools represented were Triad of Troy, Edwardsville, Staunton, Granite City, Mascoutah, New Athens, Red Bud, Waterloo, Belleville East and West, Calhoun of Hardin, Alton, Carrollton, Sparta, Highland, Chester, Madison, Civic Memorial of Bethalto, Cahokia, O’Fallon, Dupo, Bunker Hill, Freeburg, Belleville Township High School District 201’s Center for Vocational Excellence and Southwestern Illinois College.
Traveling to the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds Expo Center for this event held in late October, the students were provided with many opportunities for hands-on activities designed to give them a feel of the type of work involved in various trades connected with the construction industry.
Initially meeting with groups of individuals representing different skilled labor positions who were stationed throughout the building and outside of it, the students were encouraged, after being shown how certain things are done, to experience specific aspects of each union trade making up the expo.
Coordinating the event, which hosted students from the counties of Madison, St. Clair, Monroe, Clinton, Montgomery, Macoupin, Bond and Randolph, was the Southern Illinois Builders Association, which is headquartered in O’Fallon, in partnership with the Southern Illinois Construction Advancement program group.
Along with demonstrations of the skills, the labor personnel shared information about the various apprenticeship programs offered where earning wages while learning certain trades is possible.
The comprehensive presentations included those made by iron workers, operating engineers, sheet metal workers, boilermakers, cement masons/plasterers, painters, electricians, carpenters, brick layers, steamfitters and plumbers/gasfitters/pipefitters.
Students accompanied by faculty members from their respective schools received information packets and safety glasses upon entering, then, after a brief opening presentation, circulated throughout the display area to learn more about the construction trades.
Each student packet included a welcome booklet which had listings of the wages and benefits for each of the industries present plus the pay rate for first-year apprenticeships along with a detailed explanation about the specific duties, recommended preparatory education, working conditions and the abilities needed to perform the various chores.
Also provided to encourage the students to consider the trades presented was a detailed comparison related to the cost of college study as it contrasts with earnings possible from apprenticeships.
This story also appears in the December 2023 print edition of the Illinois Business Journal.