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Teens check out trade careers at York County job fair

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

Teenagers collected plastic construction hats, helped build and dismantle a bookcase and chatted with local business representatives Wednesday morning during a Building Industry Career Fair at Wyndham Garden York.

More than 150 high school students from nine schools and one homeschool association visited the 21 businesses that participated in Workforce NOW Foundation's first high school career fair. The foundation, a nonprofit that began in 2017 to build the skilled trades workforce, focuses on exposing career trade opportunities other than attending college to students and parents. 

“There are a lot of fields that require college degrees, but there’s a lot of businesses that will do on-the-job training, paid training, apprenticeship programs,” said Melissa Longenberger, York Builders Association vice president of member relations. 

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Students who go into trades can have successful careers and not have college debt like their counterparts, she said. According to a Workforce NOW fact sheet, carpenters, on average, make $55,850 in Pennsylvania. The sheet pegs the average cost of a four-year degree at $127,000. The typical cost for a trade school ranges from $5,000 to $15,000, it says.

“And trade careers aren’t going away,” said Longenberger. “It’s not something a computer program can do. You have to have people to go in and fix your plumbing and your heaters and replace your heaters.”

According to the nonprofit, there are 396,000 skilled trade job openings this year. In six years, they estimate there will be around 3 million openings.

“We’re especially here today to engage kids in trade,” said Sara Bradley, BLM Construction's vice president. “We have a hard time recruiting.”

She said there are a lot of job openings in a growing field. 

Sara Gray-Bradley, VP of Operations at BLM Construction, on left, talking to Kaleb Backel, a 12th grade student from West York High School, on right, at the job fair for local students in West Manchester on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.

Four West York seniors, Cameron Bair, Kaleb Backel, Christopher Fuentes and Kayla Delarosa, said they attended the fair to learn more about trade-related careers. 

Bair and Delarosa left knowing they wanted to stick with their plans to go to college. 

Fuentes, who knew he wanted to go into an automotive-based career, saw potential in other fields. 

“I saw a lot I could probably do,” he said, explaining he could do construction and lay out concrete with no problem.

A job fair for local students in West Manchester on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.

But he still wants to be in the automotive field. 

Backel plans to go into welding and talked with one group at the career fair about possible opportunities. Backel and the other three were also intrigued by Servants Inc. because of the organization's volunteer work helping people after natural disasters. 

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They all enjoyed visiting Habitat for Humanity of York County's booth, which handed out yellow plastic construction hats, and BLM Construction. At BLM Construction's table, students built and dismantled a bookcase with the help of BLM Construction lead carpenter Trevor Bostic. 

“I enjoyed the BLM construction having us involved in it and the organizations they are donating to are really good,” Bair said. 

The business also allowed the students to vote on which nonprofit should get the bookcase. The options were Olivia’s House to help support grieving children; Cornerstone Youth House, which helps homeless and transient teens and children; or Big Brothers, Big Sisters of York and Adams County. 

— Reach Meredith Willse at mwillse@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.

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