High schoolers learn about the trades from the experienced

Area high schoolers and local trade industry mentors in roundtable discussions during the fifth-annual Build Your Career Forum on Thursday, hosted by the Student Trades Initiative and Quad Cities Builders & Remodelers Association. 

Olivia Allen

Aspiring local trade workers are learning about the industry from those already in it.

Trade workers are in high demand, and more than 100 Quad-City students learned Thursday at the 5th annual Build Your Career Forum what a job in the industry might be like.

Hosted by the Student Trades Initiative and the Quad Cities Builders and Remodelers Association, the all-day event delivered 136 high school juniors and seniors from both sides of the Mississippi River to the Iowa National Guard Armory in Davenport. 

Quad-City business leaders kicked off the forum as keynote speakers, talking about the various careers in the trades and different areas of the construction industry. 

While the students broke into small groups, “mentors” from local building and construction organizations rotated through the groups. They shared industry expertise and talked about details of their careers, allowing questions.

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Specific job openings were discussed and job applications were made available.

Roundtable discussions at the fifth-annual Build Your Career Forum

Wide shot of roundtable discussions between student groups and local trade mentors at the fifth-annual Build Your Career forum on Thursday. The event was hosted by the Student Trades Initiative and Quad Cities Builders & Remodelers Association.

Olivia Allen

North Scott High School senior Nate Schneckloth plans to study construction management at North Dakota State University next year, alongside his collegiate football career. Though his plans are mapped out, he said he learned something from the speaker/mentors at the Build Your Career Forum. 

“You can do whatever you want with your life,” he said. “There are, like, 30 people in there, and they all do their own thing in different trades, and they’re all successful.” 

Schneckloth said he also liked seeing a roomful of like-minded students. 

“It’s cool,” he said. “A lot of them are my friends, too. So it’s kind of fun to see what everybody wants to do.”  

One of Schneckloth’s former trade instructors, James Simmons, is now the work-based learning coordinator at North Scott. He said he’s beginning to see a societal shift towards filling the trade-talent pipeline, among other industries. 

“For many years, education was pushing college only, and industry always knew that we needed more people in the skilled trades,” Simmons said. “So it’s events like these where industry and education partner together to make sure kids understand that there are clear pathways, and there are great opportunities. It’s a win-win for students, companies and for everyone in the community.” 

Recognizing the regional shortage of skilled workers, the Student Trades Initiative is partnering with Quad Cities Builders and Remodelers Association to introduce more students to the options within the trades, aiming to lessen the workforce gap.

“We had a great turnout,” said Amy Pearson, of the Student Trades Initiative Board. “We’re excited we had this many pre-qualified students come to learn more about opportunities with skilled, building or residential trades in the Quad-Cities.” 

Pearson also co-owns Pearson Building Pursuits, a Davenport-based residential and commercial design-build company. She hopes the forum helps students truly grasp their many potential career options.

While many careers require a four-year degree and related debt, many jobs do not, yet they too can be satisfying and financially rewarding, she said.

Even so, Pearson said, “The work shortages are real, and they aren’t going away any time soon.”

Thursday’s forum featured specific career information on carpentry, electrical, HVACR, welding, dry wall/ceiling installation, masonry, painting, plumbing and building construction technology. 

Epic Stone, Ingleby Custom Homes, Ascentra Credit Union, Gannon Roofing, Siding and Windows, SRS Distribution and Twin Bridge Construction, LLC joined the QCBR as the event’s sponsors. 

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