High school students get first-hand look at the trades at second annual Build My Future expo

Editor-in Chief

St. Charles, MO – Thousands of students from 70 high schools in St. Louis, Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois attended the second annual Build My Future® STL construction career and industry showcase April 26 and 27 at the St. Charles Family Arena to test their skills with hands-on exhibits and virtual reality simulations designed to introduce them to the building trades and the broader construction industry.

Celeste Rueter, executive vice president of Homebuilders Association (HBA) of St. Louis and Eastern Missouri said the event has more than doubled from last year when 34 schools attended.

“In some of the schools that attended last year, we know that they went back and talked to their fellow students because more kids signed up for this year’s event from the same school,” Rueter said. “Schools reached out to us this year, and even parents, asking how can we get involved in this?”

“The trades were ignored for so long by the guidance counselors in high schools, but the tide is turning,” said Shawn Levin, director of the St. Louis Electrical Industry Training Center. “It’s good to see them introducing kids to the trades and not just college, because college isn’t for everybody.”

Students and their counselors had the chance to meet with builders and union members about careers in the union building trades and learn about training options, wages, working conditions and opportunities within the industry.

“We’ve seen a trend over the last five years of not necessarily pushing everybody to college but understanding the building trades are a good option,” said Kevin O’Mara, director of training for Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562.

“Obviously we’re all affected by manpower issues, so we’re looking for folks. But mostly what we’re doing with the kids here is introducing them to our apprenticeship program,” said Mike Howard, recruitment and outreach specialist for the Missouri Laborers Employers Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET). “We’re talking with them about how it works, what it represents as an alternative for kids who don’t want to go to college, who want to get into the construction trades. We talk to them about what we specifically offer, what our program looks like and what it takes to get involved.”

The community initiative is co-chaired by representatives of the Home Builders Association of St. Louis & Eastern Missouri and the Francis Howell School District, with numerous unions and union contractors participating.

Participating unions and training centers included Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Administrative District Council (BAC-ADC), Bricklayers Local 1, Cement Masons Local 527, Glaziers Local 513, IBEW Local 1, Iron Workers Joint Apprenticeship, Missouri-Kansas Laborers District Council, Operating Engineers Local 513 Training Center, Painters District Council 58, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 and the St. Louis Electrical Industry Training Center.

Representatives from 14 school districts, several post-secondary institutions, workforce development entities, the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council, Associated General Contractors of Missouri, Economic Development Council of St. Charles County, Greater St. Charles County Chamber of Commerce, and many other organizations worked together to put on the successful event.

For more information, visit buildmyfuture.net.

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