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By ALAN J. ORTBALS
    The Southern Illinois Builders Association is working a multi-pronged strategy to attract young people to the construction industry where science, technology, engineering and math are its building blocks.
    Each October, SIBA holds its Career Expo, which offers middle and high school students from schools across Southwestern Illinois the opportunity to get a hands-on feel for being a carpenter, plumber, electrician, etc. Eight to 10 trades lend manpower and equipment for the weeklong expo and 37 schools participated last year.
    “There’s lot of hands-on activities,” said Donna Richter, SIBA CEO. “It gets the students thinking about how things are put together and stresses the importance of how math is essential in all of these trades.”
    SIBA also works with the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois on the “Manufacture Your Future/Craft Your Future/Cyber Your Future Campaign,” going to schools to talk to students, parents and teachers about the importance of STEM education and how it ties into the careers that are available in the workplace.  
    “We try to impress on them that the construction trades offer good wages and great benefits, but a good educational foundation is the key to opening that door,” Richter said. “A lot of the apprenticeship programs have begun offering tutors or classes to help those whose math skills are lacking. And it’s not only the carpenters and laborers where we’re beginning to see a shortage,” Richter added. “It includes people who work in the offices like project managers and estimators.”
    Each fall SIBA solicits candidates for scholarships for students pursuing degrees in the fields of construction management, construction-related engineering and architecture.
    Richter also assists in the formulation of curricula through advisory boards for Southwestern Illinois College, Kaskaskia College, SIUE and John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill. In addition, SIBA donated money to local colleges and universities to acquire state of the art equipment to use in their construction-related classrooms.
    “We want to help them keep up to date on the latest technology that is available for the construction industry,” Richter said.