Apprenticeship Fair Will Focus on Road Construction Careers

October 8, 2015, By Kecia Bal, Tribune-Democrat

Building on the level of interest from an apprenticeship fair held earlier this year – one that drew more than 500 prospective tradespeople – another apprentice-recruiting and informational event focused on heavy highway construction careers is set for this month.

The event highlights the potential for long-term, lucrative and rewarding careers in building the nation’s infrastructure, Cambria and Somerset County PA CareerLink Site Administrator Jeff Dick said. CareerLink, Goodwill of the Southern Alleghenies and Joseph B. Fay Co., primary contractor for the first two phases of the three-phase Route 219 expansion in Somerset County, are organizing the fair.

“This is a field where there will be demand far into the future,” Dick said.

“The industry will grow and there will be a huge increase in demand to replace retiring workers.”

Through 2022, construction and trade worker job demand is expected to grow by 14 percent, according to figures from the state’s Department of Labor and Industry.

Similar to the event in February, fair organizers aim to recruit and interest talent by showing the depth of opportunity.

Union representatives are to be on hand to discuss career potential in carpentry, pile driving, cement masonry, labor and operating engineering.

The change this time, though, is further outreach to a younger crowd: area high school students. CareerLink staff are using the fair as part of events included in “Careers in Demand Week,” supported by the Southern Alleghenies Workforce Development Board, CareerLink Senior Project Manager Nancy Peck said. The event for students is to include small groups to encourage more engagement, she said.

“We’re hoping for a big event,” Peck said.

CareerLink staff members also obtained a grant to help schools with transportation, and parents or students who are interested should connect with their school’s guidance counselor, she said.

The organization’s ongoing industry tours – at area employers that range from companies that perform welding to those that provide health care – have piqued some additional interest in trade careers, Peck said, but demand still far outpaces available talent.

“It is helpful to get kids out there, to actually see and experience what is available,” she said. “There is so much opportunity in these fields.”

CareerLink Business Services Coordinator Renee Shaw emphasized that these are not stepping-stone posts.

“These are not summer jobs,” she said.

“These are sustainable careers. (Joseph B. Fay Co.) has said that from Day 1.”

Arleen Dacey, Fay’s risk management director, said careers in highway construction – often union positions – typically offer highly competitive pay, ongoing paid training and attractive retirement packages. And the job security is there, she said.

“There will be a struggle just getting replacement workers,” she said. “There will be a point where companies hit a brick wall. These are great jobs for anyone who enjoys working with their hands, being outside and being able to enjoy the end product. Years down the line, you can look at a project and say, ‘I helped build that.’ ”

The contractor has six openings for paid apprenticeship programs in Somerset County, working on Route 219, Dacey said, adding that another six are available for a New Stanton interchange construction project underway.

“We did very well at the last (apprenticeship fair),” she said. “We saw a lot of interest in these careers. There are so many roads you can take.”

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