By Steven F. Horton, Ed.D.
Excitement filled the air on a cool, crisp, picture perfect day when 322 students with 38 teacher/administrator chaperones from Houston-Metropolitan Area high school campuses attended the 2016 Construction Careers Exposition on Thursday, October 27, at the Pasadena Municipal Fairgrounds. These select students represented Aldine, Alvin, Barbers Hill, Channelview, Deer Park, Galena Park, Goose Creek Consolidated, Humble, Pasadena, Pearland, and Sheldon Independent School Districts. 185 volunteers representing 33 contractors, colleges, and suppliers joined with the Associated Builders and Contractors of Greater Houston/Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation to sponsor and facilitate the Exposition including the donation of resources, services, and time to make this event happen.
The Construction Industry needs to attract new workers annually to keep up with the current employment demand. Because of this demand, Construction Industry leaders saw a need to continue making plans to host the annual Exposition. A primary goal of the event was for these Career and Technical Education (CTE) students to have an opportunity to explore the many facets of the Industry as they participated in some of the 21 different hands-on activity stations as well as learn about career/educational opportunities as they spoke with Construction Industry/College professionals. A secondary goal was to give the CTE teachers new connections to current endeavors in the Industry, provide them with an opportunity to meet Industry leaders, and make the teachers aware of the numerous job opportunities for their students.
For me, it continues to be rewarding to watch the students participate in the hands-on activities and engage in conversation with Industry professionals. Hands-on activities included craft areas such as pipefitting, welding, scaffolding, insulating, drywall, concrete finishing, instrumentation, rod busting, and electrical. Students also had an opportunity to operate crane and excavator simulators, man lift, and excavator as well as spend time speaking with construction professionals and college representatives at 21 different career information booths. All of these activities took place with the focus on the importance of safety in the workplace.
Collected student surveys indicated 96% of the students rated the Expo as “Fun and Informative” and 94% as “Extremely Helpful or Helpful” in making future career decisions. When asked if a future career in the Construction Industry was planned, 67% indicated “Yes” with 32% indicating “Undecided”. Student comments indicated they enjoyed the day.
This year I received letters from two students expressing their gratitude for being able to attend the Exposition. A few comments from the students stood out to me. One student wrote, “I shared lots of information from there with my cousins and uncle. I hope that it will be available for many more kids so we can keep the businesses in the Gulf Coast growing.” The other student wrote, “The booths of each company were very informational and it helped me decide what I liked and disliked. This job fair has benefited me greatly. It was an amazing experience for my fellow peers and I. I hope it is still going on when my brother gets into high school.” These types of comments are most rewarding to me and confirm that the hours the volunteers invested were well spent.
At the close of the day, each student left with a backpack filled with informational items from the participating companies and colleges and the students expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to attend the Exposition. Once again I want to express my personal THANKS to all of the volunteers who unselfishly gave of their time and talent to support the 2016 Construction Careers Exposition. I believe the time they invested will prove to make a positive difference in the lives of these students.