Spotlighting Skilled Trades
The Growing Effort To Overcome A Workforce ShortageAngie Lewis, Writer
At 7 a.m. on a Friday, thousands of high school students rushed the Georgia International Convention Center to attend the CareerExpo and SkillsUSA Championships, hosted by the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA).
During the annual event, students can showcase their skills in a number of construction-related disciplines and participate in various hands-on displays to learn about the value of skilled trades.
On average, college students are facing more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt with a college dropout rate of more than 40 percent.
TV host and narrator Mike Rowe, known for the Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs, wants to change the perception of the trades and showcase job opportunities in fields such as construction, plumbing and welding.
In 2008, he created the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which has granted over $5 million to help more than 1,000 students get a technical or vocational education.
“We’re still lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that don’t exist anymore,” Rowe says in an interview on Good Morning America. “It’s madness, when there’s so much opportunity around us. So, my foundation looks for people who are willing to hit the reset button, retool, learn a skill that’s in demand and get to work.”
Rowe isn’t knocking a college education, but rather striving to promote careers in skilled trades and close the skills gap.
“When you promote one form of education at the expense of the others, you create the problem that we’re having right now. It’s fine to push college, but you can’t push college by saying, ‘If you don’t go over here, you’re going to wind up with some kind of vocational consolation prize.’”
With more than 70 training and education facilities throughout Georgia, CEFGA is the largest NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research)-accredited training organization in the Peach State.
The 2019 CareerExpo and SkillsUSA Championships saw a record-breaking 8,615 attendees. In 2020, it will move to the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta.
“The need for skilled workers is more apparent than ever,” says Tina Robison, vice president of operations and administration for CEFGA.
“This event is focused on changing minds and bringing students and employers together to explore viable careers in construction while teaching them that there is more to construction than just a hammer and nail,” she continues. “They get to see what a job in a specific trade would look like, including apprenticeship programs — a ‘get paid while you work’ career. We are focused on careers, not jobs.”
Watch the video for a recap of the 2019 CEFGA CareerExpo.