Analysts predict a major shortage of skilled trade workers in the years to come, and on Friday a group of Central High School students got the chance to not only hear about trade careers but to get their hands dirty as well.
The experience was part of Skilled Trades Day, organized by Central High School's ACE Academy. The program helps connect students with commercial construction experience while still in school.
ACE stands for architecture, construction, and engineering with each of those fields represented in the activities they do.
Todd Werner is a junior enrolled in Central's ACE Academy. He first heard of the program through his friends.
"Turns out the teachers are really fun, the classes provide a lot of enjoyment," Werner continues, "You get two hours of your day taken up just to go out and have fun, talk with people and build some stuff you didn't think you could."
"What we're trying to do is expose these kids to as many careers and opportunities as they can," Central High School Technology Education Teacher Nick Kalina explains.
"In order to do that, what better place to do that than out in the field," Kalina continues.
That is where Skilled Trades Day comes in, replicating the jobs construction professionals deal with on a daily basis.
"The stuff they're learning here, this is real world stuff you would see on a construction site," said Kevin Hennessey, Representative for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.
With historically low unemployment levels in Wisconsin, the need for those experiences increase.
"College is a great option for a lot of kids but it's not for everybody, so we want those kids to know there are great opportunities for them in the building trades," Hennessey elaborates.
Although, ACE Academy and Skilled Trades Day can benefit college-bound students as well.
"We're not just geared towards one type of learner. We're geared towards all kids that want to use this as their background and learn from what we can offer them," Kalina said.
With events like Skilled Trades Day, students start to think about life after high school.
"It makes you open up your eyes and look more, there's a lot more things out there than you think there are. So it kind of opens it up because I can do this and I can do that, I've learned something about this, and now I know a little bit more about it so I can look into it," Werner finishes.
This is the first skilled trades day in five years with plans to include more schools next year.
Interested schools can contact Jim Falbo, Associate Director of Workforce & Safety for the Associated General Contractors of America, at JFalbo@agcwi.org.