Growing up to be a bricklayer or heavy equipment operator isn’t on a lot of to-do lists for local high school students.
For the fourth year, local construction companies teamed to host hundreds of students at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center for a Construction Career Day to expose them to careers they might not have considered.
Spokane Public Schools organizes a large consortium of schools from as far away as the Methow Valley and Kettle Falls, while Inland Northwest Associated General Contractors recruits companies to bring their equipment for teens to operate. The Washington State Department of Transportation is also a major partner.
On Tuesday and Wednesday a swarm of teenagers wearing orange vests, hard hats, safety goggles and earplugs eagerly stood in short lines to get a chance to run Bobcats, backhoes and huge road graders.
University High School junior Ronnie Lewis had a look of concentration as he shifted around buckets of sand in a small Bobcat. “I heard it was fun,” he said when asked why he attended the event.
Becca Franklin, also a junior at U-Hi, said she is interested in a construction career. She used a crane to lift a heavy bucket and drop it back to the ground inside a circle painted in the dirt. She also got to operate a jackhammer. “It’s really fun,” she said. “You get to break cement blocks.”
She came away from the event with more of an idea of what she’d like to do. “I would love to run heavy equipment,” she said.
Alex Rodriguez, a junior at Rogers High School, is a three-year veteran of the career day event. She’s worked summer jobs with her father in the construction industry. She took a turn running a large road grader, using the blade to scrape the earth, and said she enjoyed the chance to “experiment with the big toys.”
Rodriguez doesn’t need much convincing to see that construction is for her. “I’ve always thought of it as a possibility,” she said. “The bigger the toys, the more fun.”
University High School physical education teacher Mike Hawkinson was along for the ride as a chaperon. “A lot of these things they don’t know they’re a natural at until they come here and try it,” he said.
Most schools emphasize academics rather than vocational careers, but there was still a lot of interest in the career day. The event was limited to 25 students. “We could have fielded double that,” Hawkinson said. “We just wish we could bring more.”