The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Jun. 3, 2023

Event exposes students to building trades

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Freshmen and sophomores from the three Van Wert County public school districts received some hands-on experience — likely for the first time in their lives — in several building trades skills as part of Tuesday’s Build Your Future event.

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The students received instruction in how to wire lightbulbs, operate construction equipment, drill through concrete, use various tools to frame walls, do pipefitting, weld, and also learned several other building trades operations during the event, which was held in and around the Commercial Building on the County Fairgrounds.. 

Workers were there from Alexander & Bebout, All Temp Refrigeration, Ayers Mechanical, and Vantage Career Center, to instruct students in the various skilled trades, while Vantage Building Trades students helped mentor students from the three high schools in the use of the various equipment.

The building was a cacophony of noise as students used a variety of construction tools, all at the same time.

A person very interested in holding the event, Sara Zura, president of Alexander & Bebout and a civil engineer with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo, said the fact that older skilled tradesman were leaving to industry to retire, with relatively few young people interested replacing them, drove her desire to give young students just coming into high school exposure to the various building trade disciplines — HVAC, electricity, welding, construction, and carpentry — in the hopes that some would be interested enough to attend Vantage to obtain training in one of those disciplines.

Not only was it important for Zura to have students gain exposure to the building trades, but to also teach them what goes into constructing the houses and other buildings (schools, stores, etc.) they live, learn, play, and shop in, and how they are put together.

She said those who build structures often take a personal interest in those buildings, leaving a bit of themselves in the structures along with the work that went into constructing them.

“They can say, ‘I helped build that’,” Zura added, noting that builders leave a true legacy in the structures they work on. “The kids here also learn that they don’t necessarily have to go to college to have a great career.”

Van Wert Workforce Development Manager Jane Schmid said it’s important for students to be exposed to \ skilled building trades jobs, because there is such a high demand for them and they also pay well — often much better than a job that requires college training.

“Our goal: exposure to skilled trades for these kids,” she noted. “These jobs are in high demand and will continue to be.”

Schmid noted there were approximately 430,000 more building trades jobs in 2021 than in 2020, a trend she said is likely to continue with the ongoing retirement of the aging Baby Boomer generation.

In addition to the contractors, Vantage, and the three school districts’ administrators, the Van Wert Area Economic Development Corporation and Van Wert County Agricultural Society (fair board) also partnered on the project.

Much of the materials and labor were provided by the contractors, while several other businesses and organizations donated money or materials to defray the cost of the event. Those include the United Way of Van Wert County, Ace Hardware, Fastenal, Ohio Means Jobs-Van Wert County, and the Build Your Future organization.

Vantage Superintendent Rick Turner was also on-site Tuesday and spoke a little bit about how the event was organized over an extended period.

“We started talking about this several months ago and planned the event through the summer,” he said, noting that the project has many potential positives — especially if some of the students who participated in Tuesday’s event find they have an interest in construction skilled trades careers. 

“Then, it’s a win-win for everybody,” Turner said.

POSTED: 09/15/21 at 12:52 am. FILED UNDER: News