From curiosity to careers: Students get pipeline to construction jobs at Career Days event

Pensacola News Journal | By Edward Bunch II

When Brayden Ruschmeier checked out Construction Career Days last year, it was as a curious student.

When he returned this year, it was as a representative of Neel-Schaffer Engineering. Ruschmeier landed a full-time position with the company right after high school thanks to meeting folks from the engineering firm at last year’s Career Days event.

“Being an educator this year is good because I can explain (to students) how I was in their shoes last year, didn’t really know what I wanted to do and then I got into (CCD) and got lucky,” Ruschmeier said.

District 3 of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) hosted its fourth-annual Construction Career Days (CCD) event on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Santa Rosa County Fairground, bringing together more than 1,000 high school students from Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties and introducing them to the various career paths available across the construction industry.

In addition to giving students the chance to get hands on with everything from field simulations to operating heavy equipment, students were also able to speak with FDOT mentors, contractors and representatives from engineering firms about how the careers function day-to-day.

During the event there were also opportunities for students to meet potential employers for internships or job opportunities at the event’s career center.

CCD is a nationwide program and has multiple events across Florida each year.

High school seniors who attended CCD, whether in person or virtually, were eligible to receive a portion of the event’s $50,000 scholarship fund after applying online.

The scholarship fund is generated by the CCD’s fundraisers throughout the year as well as donations from sponsors. The scholarship was established to assist high school graduates enrolling in college, trade/vocational education programs, and those entering directly into the workforce.

During the event, students over the age of 18 can fill out applications for companies looking to hire employees in these career fields.

This is the first year that students from Walton County have participated in CCD. Students outside the local area can view the virtual CCD online event and apply for scholarships.

Elizabeth Graham, a senior project engineer and consultant who works directly with the Department of Transportation, hopes that more counties will participate in the future so that students across the Panhandle can get a chance to experience the event in person.

Graham said her favorite part of the event is being able to see the students simultaneously have fun and learn a lot about critical industries.

“(The event) is a great feeling, our industry needs a lot more people and there’s a lot of work that’s coming,” Graham said. “I don’t think that a lot of (young people) know the opportunities that are here.”

Published On: April 18th, 2024

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