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Education Desk: Choosing A Construction Job Over College

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There’s a construction worker shortage in Florida. Something the Florida Department of Transportation knows all too well. So it holds job fairs for high school students who may not want to go to college. From our education desk, 90.7’s Catherine Welch talks with Jill Cappadoro about how FDOT’s job fairs work.

Jill Cappadoro:  Students who have a comfort level working outdoors. Those that may have some exposure to construction whether it be even home repair work, electrical work, welding, carpentry. We also find students that grow up in a rural environment around ranching who may work around the heavy equipment and farm equipment are adapted for road and bridge construction.

Catherine Welch: What are the questions they tend to bring to the table when you and your associates talk with the students trying to match them up with construction jobs?

Cappadoro: You know I think for many pay is an important motivation. Others like the opportunity of working outdoors as opposed to an office environment. So often they’re interested in how quickly is the process for hiring. What is the process for skills development, training.

Welch: Now when you’re talking to employers and construction companies is there a hesitation with matching recently graduated high school students with jobs in the industry?

Cappadoro: The first requirement really is: you must be 18 and older, because of the emphasis placed on a safety and a safe work environment. They are looking for people who can pass pre-employment drug testing, and from there an important criteria is the willingness to work. Also an important element is collaboration, you know, being able to work in a collaborative environment. Because when you work in teams, these folks work in teams, and so the ability to take direction and to collaborate and with one another is important as well.

Welch: In there are those soft skills that you have to think about. The work place responsibility to show up on time, have everything ready, be able to play nice with others – is this something as you’re not only talking to the students, but also talking to the construction companies, that this needs to be taught especially if you’re dealing with the 18-year old-who may not have a lot of experience in the workplace?

Cappadoro: Well that’s exactly right. We do find that of utmost importance to our contractors. And what they’re sharing with us is a challenge in today’s workforce is having people that are work ready, having those basic math skills, reading skills to be able to read safety manuals.

Welch: What’s your sense it in terms of high school counselors? Are they aware that the construction industry that there is a shortage that there may be a space for some of their students in the construction industry?

Cappadoro: I feel as an industry, the road and bridge construction industry, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that career and guidance counselors do understand the kinds of opportunities that are available to students to graduating high school seniors. So the Florida Department of Transportation has its “Roads to Jobs” and “On Board for Jobs” construction careers program, which has a focus on educating the school systems throughout the state about careers in this industry.

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About Catherine Welch

Catherine Welch