Area eighth-graders get schooled on in-demand craft jobs

By By Frank DiCesare / American Press

Eighth-graders from the five-parish

area on Tuesday got a firsthand look at the jobs that will be in demand

in Southwest Louisiana

as they grow into adulthood.

Nearly 4,000 students attended the

fourth annual Career Discovery Day at the Lake Charles Civic Center. The

event introduced

them to the skilled craft jobs that do not require a college

degree but will be in high demand in the region throughout the

next decade.

“There is already a certain amount of

communication happening to encourage students to look at where the jobs

are and look

at where the money is,” said Nancy Tower, North American

operations training and communications manager for Sasol, the event’s

sponsor.

“Those are two key messages that have

been missing in the past as we suggest that children pursue careers.

They go into degree

programs where there are no jobs in the area. They go into degree

programs where they really don’t understand how does that

income fit with what I expect my quality of life to be.”

Students visited booths manned by

representatives from 36 careers, including firefighting, nursing and

culinary arts. Representatives

from industry-related jobs were also on hand to speak to students

about jobs such as heavy-equipment operation, process technology,

millwright work, drafting and carpentry.

Students had 20 minutes to speak with

representatives and fill out a form that asked them questions about how

much a career

pays, its demand level, and whether it will help them live the

lifestyle they want in adulthood. Students were asked to turn

in their completed forms to their teacher when they were finished.

One of event’s representatives, Justin Hart, a millwright from Chicago Bridge and Iron, said the demand for millwrights is

increasing, adding that it’s a great job for students to consider, especially those who like to work with their hands.

“For the kids who grow up liking to

build things, being able to say this is what we do on a daily basis, we

measure things

down to something less than the thickness of hair, that’s a

selling point for a lot of these kids who are interested in technical

knowledge,” he said. “They learn that I can make a difference that

could cost millions of dollars if I don’t do it right;

it does draw a bit of an eyebrow raise.”

Bob Smith, the event’s chairman and

former lab manager at Louisiana Pigment, said he wants students to

discover that not all

lucrative careers require a four-year degree. “This is a total

career for them; this will last for their whole life,” he said.

“If they don’t want to stay with that craft, they can always opt

out and go to college later. But for the immediate term they

can gain experience and maturity and gain a lot of money by

getting into these crafts.”

Smith said 74 percent of all jobs do

not require a four-year degree. He said students need to learn that you

don’t need to

be “a bookworm” to enter a career that pays well. “The pay for an

accountant is not what the pay for a welder is,” he said.

“A welder makes more money.”