High school students from across the Kenai Peninsula soldered, hammered and surveyed their way through Alaska Construction Career Day at the Soldotna Sports Center Wednesday.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and other collaborators arranged the hands-on day to introduce students to the construction industry.
"We realize a lot of kids don't go to college and we want them to know there are career opportunities without (a college) education," said Thomas Jenkins, a coordinator of the event.
This is the first time the Alaska Construction Career Day has come to the Peninsula, he said.
Corey Olympic, a 17-year-old Kenai Central High School junior, said he came to the career day because he's interested in working construction or welding.
"It's what I like to do. I like to work with my hands and not sit in an office," he said, while building a birdhouse at one of the stations set up inside the arena.
Another Kenai student, EJ Ismael, 17, said he was interested in welding, too.
"I want to learn about welding because I want to do deep sea water welding for gas," he said, after he got done practicing shooting nails into drywall.
Good thing for them, CH2MHill is looking for welders.
Dennis Schaeffer, a safety supervisor for the company's Kenai Business Unit, said the company has some projects coming up. He was there to tell students about the engineering, carpentry, and heavy equipment operator opportunities at CH2MHill.
"Right now we're desperate for workers," he said. "We need welders. We need good workers."
Margaret Griffin, a counselor at Soldotna High School who was there chaperoning her students, said the career day was a fun way to expose students to different career paths and summer job options.
"I think a lot of kids aren't aware of what opportunities are there. They think, 'Oh, I got to flip burgers or something,'" she said.
In the parking lot of the Sports Center, students, equipped with safety goggles, hard hats and neon vests, took turns getting into a road grader, welding, and scoping out a belly-dump truck.
"I wanted to go to college and I had no job experience," Chandra Portell, a truck driver for AKA Hauling told the students. "The state paid $6,000 for me to go to truck driving school. That's how I'm paying for my college.
"If you can learn a trade it's really smart."
Courtney Gum, a 15-year-old sophomore at Skyview High School, said that she's interested in learning a different type of trade -- nursing.
"I was tricked into it," she said about coming to Alaska Construction Careers Day. "They told me it was vocational day."
But perhaps Gum will have changed her mind after she tried welding and played on a backhoe simulator.
"A lot of kids we talked to didn't realize how fun it is, first of all, and it pays a good wage," Jenkins said.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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