Heather Baril, FDOT operation engineer and co-chair of Career Days, wanted to give students an idea of what workers in construction careers do on a daily basis and all of the opportunities that they have in the field.
According to Baril, this is an opportunity to not only expose students who are looking for different pathways after high school, but to help fill the shortage of workers within the construction industry where entry level equipment operators salary is $40,000 to $50,000 in Florida.
“We have a lot of projects coming, there’s a lot of money coming to the industry and every aspect of the process — contractors, consultants, the DOT — we all have a shortage of workers right now,” Baril said. “So it’s getting that exposure out there so that the students actually know that this is an option for them, and then also directly recruiting so the ones that are seniors that are graduating this year, they’re talking with companies here that are hiring and they can fill out an application so they have a job as soon as they graduate.”
FDOT mentors, schools and various engineering firms and contractors such as CWR Contracting, Inc. and Locklin Technical College were on site to provide students with information about their companies and employment opportunities.
There were also six equipment companies on site with 20 different pieces of heavy equipment available for students to operate. The hands-on experience helps students get a feel for how companies build bridges or work on traffic lights.
Alexis Nelson, a junior at J.M. Tate High School, comes from a family that works with septic tanks, so she was already very familiar with the trade industry. Still, walking around each learning lab she picked up insight on things like how drainage systems work and how different materials like grass and concrete affect the way water flows.
“I’m very excited to be able to branch out and learn new opportunities and get so much information from these people, and for them to take out their time to come teach us means a lot,” Nelson said.
In school she takes an Agricultural Mechanics class which prepares students for careers in agriculture, food, fiber and natural resources systems, but Nelson also has plans for veterinarian school as well.
There is also an opportunity for students who attended Career Days to apply for a portion of a $50,000 scholarship to assist high school graduates with enrolling in college, vocational school or going straight into the workforce.
Cody Pugh, a junior at Northview High School, came to Career Days to view the different careers available. He has been interested in welding or farrier school, which is the care, trimming and balancing of horseshoes.
Coming to the event allowed him to see new skills he would be interested in, like surveying lakes, and he said he hopes other high schoolers like himself take advantage of Career Days in the future.
“I feel like everybody should get a chance to come to one of these because not everybody knows what they’re gonna do with their life,” Pugh said. “But if you come to one of these they have plenty of different careers to choose from, but I feel like it should come as a stepping stone towards a lot of things when getting out of high school.”