Gilbert High School seniors Mason Reading and Lucas Beals attended this year’s Arizona Construction Career Days because they wanted to know more about the industry.
Clarissa Tonkin, a student at the East Valley Institute of Technology, was there because she hopes to take her construction training into a decorative arts career.
The three were among a record 4,428 Arizona students participating in the 21st-annual event, organized by the Phoenix-based Association for Construction Career Development and hosted by the Arizona National Guard in Papago Park in Phoenix.
Accompanied by 410 teachers, the students traveled from 80 schools in 11 counties for AZCCD, which promotes career opportunities in – and dismisses stereotypes – about the high-paying construction industry.
With the country investing heavily in infrastructure during the next few years, expect more emphasis on vocational training, said Stephen Cole, workforce development trainer for California-based Rosendin Electric, which has a regional Tempe office.
“I think the industry needs to incentivize young people to go into vocations the same way as recruiters and high school guidance counselors do for how many students go on to college,” he said.
Cole noted that the hourly base pay for a journeyman union wireman is $32.55 in the Valley, not including the insurance and pension that comes with the job.
At the same time, electricians in the mining industry are earning as much as $48,194 annually, according to the Arizona Mining Association, while concrete ready-mix truck drivers bring in up to $72,000 per year, according to the Arizona Rock Products Association.
The students had an opportunity to interact with 76 exhibitors and potential employers in Arizona.
For years, negative attitudes about skilled labor work have predominated as high schools and parents pushed young people into college as the only sure path to success. At the event, however, students and professionals talked about career options with- out a high-cost – and often high-debt – college degree.
“AZCCD is the largest workforce development event in the state, generating a new pipeline of skilled workers. Our focus is attracting high school students to the industry while educating their teachers and counselors to the vast opportunities and careers available to make a very good living in construction,” said Rose Ann Canizales, president of the nonprofit event.
“We are ‘Building Tomorrows Workforce Today’ one student at a time.”
On site were general contractors, such as McCarthy Building Companies of Phoenix and Chandler; specialty contractors, labor unions, regulatory and compliance firms such as the International Code Council and the Arizona Building Officials Association.
Also attending were representatives of the National Electrical Contractors Association, Associated General Contractors, Arizona chapter, and the National Association of Women in Construction.
“This event is a massive collaboration of prominent industry leaders, educators, legislators and our honored military partners who engage in positive dialogue supporting the creation of educational curriculum and workforce development for Arizona students,” said Steve Trussell, executive director of the Arizona Rock Products Association and the Arizona Mining Association, lead sponsors of the event.
“It has grown into a premier event in the state. Including this year’s group, more than 35,000 students have attended in its 21-year history.”
Stephen Cole, workforce development trainer for Rosendin, explained,” Young people often aren’t aware of the opportunities, and this event is a phenomenal opportunity to meet and talk with people in the industry who have made successful lives in the trades.”
One example of this is the company’s CEO, Mike Greenawalt, a graduate of Sunnyslope High School in Phoenix who began his career as an electrician’s apprentice.
The employee-owned company is one of the country’s largest electrical contractors, employing 7,500-plus people, with annual revenues averaging $2 billion.
Current Valley projects include the $800-million Meta Data Center project in Mesa and the $20-billion Intel Chandler semiconductor manufacturing plant in Chandler.