Some workforce development professionals hope an effective method to shore up hard-to-fill but in-demand jobs is to showcase potential opportunities to young people still undecided about their careers.   

That's the hope for the inaugural Northwest Indiana Construction & Skilled Trades Day program, set for Tuesday in the Industrial Building at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point. The event is open to students and their families from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then to the general public from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

"We really want to get our message out there that there are viable jobs in the construction industry and the trades," said Kevin Comerford, director of professional development with the Portage-based Construction Advancement Foundation. "Far too often, our schools are pushing students toward a college career path when for some students that may not be their best option." 

Comerford said the construction industry as well as the trades also seek talented individuals, people with good soft skills including being effective communicators and recognizing the importance of arriving at work on time and being ready to work when they arrive. 

"Sometimes when someone receives a college degree, they end up in a field where they don't earn enough to support themselves let alone pay back student loans," Comerford said. 

Among the trades represented at the event will be carpenters and millwrights. Government data suggests carpenters can earn between $45,000 and $61,000 annually though entry-level positions may start at $20 per hour.

Other trades, which will be represented include technical engineers (surveyors); sheet metal workers; ironworkers; plumbers; electricians; bricklayers; roofers; operating engineers; laborers; insulators and pipefiters. There also will be representatives from the Teamsters and The Indiana Plan for Equal Employment, a Gary-based group, which is working to get more minorities involved in the trades and We Build NWI. 

Students can interact with trade representatives but they also will get some hands on training. 

"We'll have some activities for the students to try," Comerford said. "We really want to showcase that there are other career options out there. There is a misconception out there that jobs in the trades are for people who do not want to go to college, but our message is we do want people who may be college material but are more interested in working with their hands."

Linda Woloshansky, president and CEO of the Valparaiso-based Center for Workforce Innovations, said the event is an opportunity to help the trades with its recruitment efforts.

"We began talking with the schools and gauging their interest in an event like this and many offered positive response to it," she said. 

Woloshansky said because there was advance planning done for the event, the 20 participating Region high schools found students to attend the program who may be more inclined to purse a job in the trades. More than 1,000 students are expected. 

"Many of the students coming in still are undecided about their career fields, so we think we're getting the right kinds of kids in front of the trades," she said. "People in the trades really love their respective industries so this will be an opportunity for them to share their stories."                         

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Business Editor

Larry is the Business Editor of The Times of Northwest Indiana.