The Pelican Chapter of Associated Builder and Contractors, Inc. hosted Build Your Future Day 2019 for area high school student on Wednesday at the West Cal Arena. Over 500 students from 29 high schools in Southwest Louisiana attended the event designed to introduce various industrial careers available in the region and potentially draw connections with student's Jump Start curriculums.
"These kids don't really realize everything that's out there," Blaise Theard, workforce development specialist said. Most students are familiar with welding, electrical and heavy machine operations, he said, but "when they come out here and see the careers they could have in safety or rebar tying it just shows them what all is out there in the industry."
Louisiana has the fifth highest demand for craft professionals in the United States. With the school agriculture programs and the creation of a standardized career and technical education through the Jump Start pathway, the future of construction is in the hands of students attending Wednesday's event, Theard said.
"These employers understand that the next generation is going to make an impact on this industry. The quicker we can get them in training, the better," he said. High School students who take advantage of programs like ABC can potentially graduate ready for a job or at least have a head start on their craft training.
Time to enter the workforce can take up to two years after high school or some students are ready at 18, he said. "It depends on the craft and it depends on the dedication of the kid," Theard said. "Regardless, we want them to be field ready."
Toby Johnson, a junior at Kinder High School, got a taste of potential careers with FallTech by participating in the fall protection demonstration. After coming down from his hoist he realized that line of work wouldn't be ideal for him.
"It ain't bad but it ain't comfortable," he laughed with his classmates.
The experience confirmed his desire to pursue a career as a welder, he said. "This is my first year but I've excelled in it. I'm on a higher level than most of the students in my age."
He attributed his success to a genuine enjoyment of process of the craft. "I'm very dedicated and it interests me a lot. I put a lot of focus on it. It's a good time passer and it calms me down...That's really one of the main things that I like about."