Building Interest Back in the Trades

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From metal work and carpentry to insulation and roofing. Trades and apprenticeship programs have been around for decades and only recently interest in them has started to decline.

“We actually are facing a really critical labor shortage in the next few years with the baby boomers retiring. And the other side of the coin is we have a younger generation that really is not expressing interest in the trades. So we thought we’d put together a cohesive event that included all the building trades who might have a better response from the community,” explained Karyn Charvat, the executive director of PowerForward DuPage.

And respond they did. The DuPage Trades Apprenticeship Expo saw nearly 200 high school, college level, and post graduate students come out to connect with laborers from throughout the area.

“I had never considered the boilermakers coming into this,” said attendee Austin Wiesbrook, a recent high school graduate. “And after talking to them [I found out] what they do with all the pressure and interesting welding and the fact that they’re the oldest union out there; I didn’t know that until now. That got me super interested, that’s now what I want to try to get to. I got some other advice on going to school and where to go, some other advice on not to go to school so, this was totally worth it.”

16 different unions were represented at the expo, reaching out to those who will continue the trades and take up apprenticeships or other positions.

“To help the young generation to come in, especially the guys coming out of high school and give them options. It’s not just carpenters, it’s your bricklayers, your local 150. For all the trades to come here and getting these young guys to open up their minds and say ‘look this is what we can do, this is an opportunity that we have,’” said Vince Tybor, a union journeyman carpenter at the expo.

Both district 203 and 204 are laying the groundwork for study in those fields by offering technology and engineering education.

“Technology is obviously everywhere, kids have an innate connection with it,” said Waubonsie Valley Teacher Matt Ristow. “The fact that they walk into a classroom scenario that’s hands-on and that’s not maybe a traditional learning environment where they get to problem solve and work in team-based environments, and produce things is really sought after by the kids. So there’s a huge demand across the board, whether it’s on the engineering side or it’s into our traditional woods program and our construction programs.”

Building interest back up in the trades with the tradesmen of the present, lending a hand to those of the future.

Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.