Hard hat required: Construction Career Days draws 1100 students

By Carrie Sutton | Oct 13, 2016
Cody West, a Pisgah senior, learns how to operate an excavator at Construction Career Days at the Haywood County Fairgrounds. More than 1,100 students from 17 WNC counties attended the event to learn about job opportunities.

Backhoes and boom trucks took center stage at Western North Carolina’s Construction Career Days on Oct. 12-13 at the Haywood County Fairgrounds.

The career fair brought out more than 1,100 students from 17 surrounding counties. Area schools that participated included Tuscola, Pisgah, and Central Haywood high schools.

"The Construction Career Expo is a great opportunity for our students to see what is available to them,” said Rodney Mashburn, Central Haywood High School principal. “They have access to local employers, and they’re able to ask questions about the types of jobs that are available.”

Students were given 1.5 hours to talk with more than 30 local and state businesses and organizations in the main building. They learned about everything from how to wire a basic switch to how to become a mason.

Their remaining 1.5 hours was spent operating cranes, backhoes, and other equipment in a hands-on environment.

“I really liked getting to operate the different construction equipment, but my favorite was the tire changing challenge with the NASCAR Technical Institute,” said Jay Bradley, a Pisgah senior. “I’ve already been accepted to the automotive diesel technology program at Ohio Technical College, so this was like a preview of what’s to come.”

Among the businesses and organizations at the Construction Career Expo was Starr Electric Company, one of the largest and oldest commercial and industrial electrical contracting companies in the Southeast.

“Students have shown a keen interest in the trade,” said Jermaine Roach, Starr Electric corporate recruiter. “We’re searching for people who want to come work with us right out of high school and also for those interested in attending a four-year university for something related to electrical engineering.”

Roach even made a standing job offer to a high school student on the first day of the career fair based on the student’s interest and demeanor.

The lead sponsor of the Construction Career Expo was Education Services Unlimited, a Mt. Holly education consulting business owned by Tim Eldridge.

Eldridge has been involved with Construction Career Days since it began in 2000. The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) created the event, but was unable to continue the career fair after 2012 due to changing focus on education outreach.

Eldridge said he was happy to step in as the event coordinator this year and bring Construction Career Days back to Western North Carolina after a four-year hiatus.

“It’s great to see our students using their hands to open their eyes to career opportunities that they didn’t even know about,” Eldridge said. “I’m happy to help the students in Western North Carolina because they are so driven, and they deserve the same opportunities that other students have in the state.”

Eldridge said he hopes to organize another Construction Career Days in the spring of 2018.

Construction Career Days is one of several career-driven events that Haywood County Schools participates in to expose students to a variety of career fields.