TWIN FALLS — Standing in a newly finished home on Pheasant Road in Twin Falls, builder Jon Zernickow told six south-central Idaho high school students he would give them all jobs.
The owner of Zernickow Family Investments has watched fewer students in younger generations go after trade jobs. The average age of a construction worker is 41, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.
“It’s needed so bad,” Zernickow said. “If someone wants an easy job, construction isn’t it, but if they want to be proud of what they do, work with their hands and make a good living, this is where they want to be.”
To help inspire the next generation of construction workers, he and his son participated in the fourth annual Magic Valley Construction Expo on Thursday and Friday.
Open to high school students and older, participants build sheds that are then auctioned off by local schools as a fundraiser. Builders and contractors are invited to come recruit potential employees and provide advice.
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More than 80 students from around the Magic Valley participated this year, said Annie Peterson, the work base learning coordinator for Twin Falls High School.
New this year, students in Building Construction Level III, a class offered by the Twin Falls School District, were able to leave the expo and visit with Zernickow and Kortnie Kent, Twin Falls senior building inspector.
Collin Rasmussen, a senior from Twin Falls High School, said even though he wants to go into agriculture, the skills he learned from the class and the expo are vital.
“You are going to live in a house hopefully, so you are going to learn more about your house and how you can fix it,” Rasmussen said.
Tony Tapia, a senior from Magic Valley High School, has participated in the expo for the past three years. This year he helped teach younger students and provide tips such as how to cut different angles for siding.
“My favorite part of the day is interacting with the students because I was in their shoes,” Tapia said. “And now I feel like I get to teach them and I can make an impact.”
During last year’s expo, Laub’s Construction found Tapia and recruited him for summer and after-school work.
“After I finished my first house, I saw it completed after six months, and seeing all the work we had done on that house and especially it being my first, that’s what really got me going and got me to stay and come back for this year’s expo,” he said.
Construction jobs require critical thinking skills and willingness to work in adverse conditions, he said.
“It’s not the easiest but I have fun doing it and I think it’s the best.”
The expo was hosted by Southern Idaho Economic Development, Magic Valley Builders Association, Twin Falls School District, and the College of Southern Idaho Workforce Development.