Checking out skilled trades
MBA holds career day for high school students

By Alex Nemec - Freeman Staff

April 30, 2018

 Mike Coello of Coello and Associates explains to Oconomowoc High School students how the company pours foundations and can print them with different designs for customers.
Alex Nemec/Freeman Staff

SUMMIT — The Metropolitan Builders Association showcased houses to students Friday morning at Lake Country Village to introduce them to the kinds of careers they can pursue in the skilled trades.

The MBA showed off three homes to students from Oconomowoc High School and others as part of the daylong event.

Students were shown the careers they could have in areas such as masonry, roofing, plumbing, cabinetry and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

Oconomowoc High School sophomore Noah Jordan said he became interested in the trades because his father was an engineer and he hasn’t been pushed to go to a four-year school. “I think a lot of the programs at the school right now and a lot of the newer parents are promoting getting into the trades instead of actually going to college,” Jordan said. “As a lot of people here have said, it’s just smarter to get into the trade at the start.”

Talking high wages, job security

MBA president Jonathan Synovic wrote a letter to parents that the students received in their gift bag telling about the trades. Synovic said while parents and high school counselors encourage going to a fouryear college, trades provide an alternative and a solid future.

“Individuals who chose construction and related industries are seeing record wages and job security in a tight labor market,” Synovic said in the letter.

One of the major talking points throughout the career day was the money to be made right now within the industries. Trade jobs are currently experiencing a shortage of qualified workers, so new workers have a chance to earn up upwards of $50,000 to $60,000 in a few years.

Jordan said he was interested in plumbing and electrical jobs and entering the trades right away would give him a chance to be independent going into the future.

OHS teacher Steve Olson teaches the building and trades class and said people within the trades are very smart.

“To get the kids out on a job site, they get to talk to each one of the tradesmen and learn the skills they have and the jobs they do,” Olson said. “These kids can see that you still need to have your education and it doesn’t have to be just related to a four-year college.”

Students coming out of high school and going straight into the trades start earning money, Olson said.

“That doesn’t mean they’re going to stop learning,” Olson said. “So many of these trades would have the kids going off to WCTC to get their special skills training, their code training, but they get to start making some money.”

MBA volunteer Jean-Marie Ruehl said society has tricked parents into thinking trades weren’t a reasonable career choice.

“I was brainwashed into thinking that I was a poor parent if my kids didn’t go to college, or that my kids weren’t successful if they don’t go to college,” Ruehl said. “That’s just not the case.”

‘A ton of opportunity to advance’

OHS junior Keegan Lazar said he has found an interest in concrete and plumbing trades and he took away just how many opportunities there are in the trades field.

“There’s a ton of opportunity to advance in whatever field you go into,” Lazar said. “It’s kind of inspiring to hear some of these people stories who have started as a laborer and now they run their own businesses.”

Lazar said taking the building trades class at OHS has seen a change in culture of four-year colleges being pushed on to students.

The people Lazar has spoken with about trades have told him that they wished they wouldn’t have gone to a four-year and gotten so far in debt.

Olson said a lot of kids don’t like to sit somewhere and learn and would rather be doing things hands-on.

“I guarantee you if you get them actively involved in something, they learn it quicker,” Olson said.

He said each trade has different interest levels for each person and that’s why the event was so important to the students.

“They can see that this is something they like to do,” Olson said. “These kids, they have the passion, they want to be working with their hands, and they want to be manipulating. They want to be on their feet and doing something.”