Since its Soldotna debut three years ago, Alaska Construction Career Day is seeing a more diverse group of students attend the event.
Loretta Knudson-Spalding, Kenai Peninsula School District guidance assistant, said more girls attended the event than in the past two years.
Norma Lucero, on-the-job support services coordinator at the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and construction day coordinator said construction isn’t a common career choice for women. Organizers of the event are trying to encourage girls as well as minority students to consider a career in the field.
Kenai Central High School sophomore Ashley Young said while she doesn’t want to work in the construction industry after high school, she enjoys welding and woodworking.
“I actually built it,” Young said about a wood project from the event. “It’s fun.”
She has taken woodshop and welding classes at school and plans to continue taking shop-based classes through high school.
Sara Filiatraut, a freshman at Skyview High School, is interested in becoming a paramedic or working in construction — possibly trucking — after graduating. She said she spent a while talking with representatives with one of the trucking companies at the event, and hopes to follow up with the company in the future.
Tekakwitha Viglione, 23, a first-year apprentice through Piledrivers and Divers Local 2520’s training school, said she first became interested in welding at a similar event when she was 16 years old.
Levi Allain, lead instructor for Piledrivers, said it can be difficult for women who work in construction to make a name for themselves. He said Viglione is doing well so far.
“It’s sometimes difficult being a woman (in construction),” Viglione said. … “You try to beat out all the guys. We all want jobs.”
For any student interested in working in construction, Viglione recommended taking all the high school shop classes possible.
A wider age range of students was also represented at this year’s event at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on April 29. Previously the event was primarily open to juniors and seniors. This year freshman and sophomores were invited. Knudson-Spalding said bringing younger students to the event helps them to decide sooner if they’re interested in a career in construction so that they can take classes that work toward that goal.
The event, sponsored by DOT&PF Civil Rights Office, the Local Technical Assistance Program, brings labor unions, construction companies and state agencies together to teach students about the construction field. Students learn about welding, woodworking, building, heavy equipment operating and more.
“It just gives them hands-on experience for all the different venues,” Knudson-Spalding said.
She said the event increases awareness of apprenticeship and vocational opportunities after graduating high school and some students have gone into trade programs from connections made at the event.
Reubin Payne, Connections Home-school advisor, said the event stimulates interest in students to consider vocational work and apprenticeships to “earn while you learn.” He said jobs in the construction field pay well and he thinks the number of local jobs in the industry will increase in the near future.
While the construction companies and labor unions that attend the fair don’t take resumes, Knudson-Spalding said she know a few students have made connections at the fair that have lead to apprenticeships.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.