Construction Career Days event inspires students

A group photo featuring Governor Whitmer and MEA President Madafferi
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and MEA President Chandra Madafferi attended the Michigan Construction Career Days event hosted by Operating Engineers Local 324 at their training center in Howell.

More than 4,500 students from across Michigan gathered in Howell last week for two days of hands-on experience with tools, materials and heavy equipment as part of the 16th annual Michigan Construction Career Days event.

The event, hosted at Operating Engineers Local 324’s training center in Howell, showcased to students from grades 7-12 the diverse career opportunities available in the construction industry and underscored the importance of training and education for securing rewarding jobs in the skilled trades.

“This is an awesome event for students to explore careers, try out the equipment and decide if this is an area they want to pursue,” said MEA member Sara Taylor, a learning coach at the Center for Innovation and Alternative Education in Lapeer.

Educators and trade professionals stressed the importance of exposing younger students to such events to help them understand real-world applications and foster interest in skilled trades and construction careers from an early age.

MEA President Chandra Madaferri said it’s critical that students are made aware of all the opportunities available after graduation, whether it be going to a traditional four-year university, enrolling in a community college or entering the union skilled trades.

Students: Luke Tesmer, Beau Fiber, Nick Bigger, Christian Jones, Sara Taylor (teacher), Jeff Lorenz (teacher)
Students: Luke Tesmer, Beau Fiber, Nick Bigger, Christian Jones, Sara Taylor (teacher), Jeff Lorenz (teacher)

“We have known there has been a demand for different pathways for students, and we need to allow them to start exploring earlier,” Madafferi said. “I think students know early on if college is right for them or not, but they may not know what other options are available to them.”

“We are going to work with Operating Engineers Local 324 to raise awareness of this program across the state so more students can participate,” Madafferi said.

Nick Bigger and Christian Jones, both students in Lapeer Community Schools, shared newfound insights on construction trade careers after participating in the event.

“I see these careers as something more of my peers would like to investigate,” Nick said. “The narrative of going to college has been pushed, but now we see there are different options.”

A picture of Zach Johnston
Zack Johnston, Farmington High School senior.

Christian, meanwhile, credited Taylor for exposing him to the skilled trades: “My teacher, Ms. Taylor, has definitely helped provide different experiences like this for me and other students.”

The event also served as a crucial platform for students like Zack Johnston from Farmington Public Schools to discover possible career options. “There is a lot more security and reliability in these careers than I thought,” Zack said. “I absolutely see myself continuing on this path after high school.”

Also in attendance was Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who highlighted the significance of events like Michigan Construction Career Days in exposing students and parents to various career paths.

“Everyone deserves a path to dignity, work and prosperity,” Whitmer said.

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