Is a four-year college degree required for success?
The career options are endless for high school graduates, tradesmen and apprentices as 1,400 Renton School District students learned Thursday at Lindbergh High School’s seventh annual Trades Fair.
More than 50 representatives from local industries, apprenticeships and community college programs provided a snapshot of the opportunities awaiting high school graduates. In addition to the 1,100 Lindbergh students at the fair, the district bused in about 300 students from Renton's three middle schools, the secondary learning center, and Hazen and Renton high schools.
From police and fire to construction and aerospace, most booths far surpassed the traditional paper hand-outs of your average job fair. Instead, potential employers and mentors encouraged a hands-on approach.
The “trauma toys” — IV bags, heart monitoring equipments, and other medical supplies — drew both boys and girls to a table staffed by several ER nurses from Valley Medical Center.
“We’ve been explaining the different types of nursing,” said ER nurse Katherine Bendickson.
Bendickson, who graduated from nursing school in 2003 said she remembers what it was like “to be on the other side of the table,” searching for information about career opportunities and hoped students find the fare helpful.
A half-erected drive-through coffee stand in the middle of the room drew many curious students, some of whom asked how the structure got inside the gym.
Mick Newell, a program manager for education and marketing with the Associated General Contractors (AGC) brought the ‘kit’ to provide students with an introduction to a career in construction and walk them through the process of building a structure.
The structure went up and down several times during the fair as Newell encouraged interested students to take part in the project. It required five or six students to work on it at a time.
Glen Martin, a program coordinator and Carpentry Technology Instructor at Green River Community College, manned a station where students used nail guns to make reindeer sawhorses.
“The carpentry program is in need of students,” he said. “We teach residential construction, and the need for this skill is picking up.”
A starting wage in the industry earns between $15-$17, but a first year apprentice can earn $21.50, he said.
Lindbergh grad John DeGrazia has worked on and off in construction for 10 to 15 years and joined Martin at the Green River College booth.
It's great to be back at his alma mater to share more about his trade, he said.
Boeing kept its booth simple, with pens and model wooden airplanes, but their message may have been the most enticing to students looking to earn a comfortable living without the weight of debt from higher education.
“A student can graduate from a four year college with an engineering degree, but then they have to compete with 300 other recent grads for the three jobs available,” said Tim Wilson. “I want to let them know what reality is.”
Apprenticeship is different, he said, because students get paid to learn.
“It’s the earn while you learn program,” he said.
Gwi Musch, currently a composite manufacturing apprentice in the program, added that wages start at $27 per hour and books are covered by Boeing.
Students mobbed the Renton Fire and Emergency Services booth, where they could see and touch some of the Department's tools used by the dive, rope, HazMat and medical teams.
“It’s great exposure for students to start thinking about a career,” said Lt. Craig Soucy, who was really excited to see middle school students participating in the fair.
Lindbergh High School culinary students shared their skills with fellow classmates and representatives at the fair by preparing snacks and a light lunch.