TAMPA, Fla. — More than 70 graduating seniors at Chamberlain High School in Tampa met with leaders in the construction industry in person.
It was the first in-person job fair for students since the pandemic began in March 2020.
"The goal is to get these students hired, get them working for a company, then actually put them in apprenticeship training programs," Steve Cona, the President and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida's Gulf Coast said. "Then they can grow from an apprentice to a journeyman in their trade in a very short period of time."
Before the pandemic, Cona said they would hold mega job fairs with thousands of students. They continued doing virtual job fairs, but they couldn't reach as many students. A year lost going to schools and helping students find what works best for their future.
"Contact Associated Builders and contractors, and if you want to work in this industry, we are going to place you with a company that's gonna hire you and train you and nurture you into a great career."
Students could meet face-to-face with industry leaders in various trades that included painting, electricity, fire sprinkler techs, carpentry, plumbers, and HVAC technicians.
"I was thinking about going to the military, but those people came here and gave us an opportunity of being employed right after high school, so it got me thinking about it, you know," senior Bryant Santana told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska.
The best part for Santana, "make some money. I was working at McDonald's, and I had to stop for a time like when the COVID start I had to stop our job was paralyzed."
The apprenticeships are paid, and the companies also cover tuition costs.
"We can hire them on the spot through an apprenticeship program," Christyne Gonzalez, the Director of Marketing for Painters on Demand, said. "We actually have a painting school we provide for the kids at no cost to them. The thing we hope for them is to give them the skills that they can live their whole life, you know, hard work, attention to detail that most people have to learn it's not something we just acquire."
With residential and commercial construction booming across Tampa Bay, an in-demand industry is working as an electrician.
"We are as busy as we ever been, in fact," Aaron Mohr, Project Manager at Gaylor Electric, said. "It's important for these guys to know they don't just have to go to college to learn. They can learn as coming up in a technical school and be able to learn with their hands."
Students we talked to also felt more attracted to some companies than others.
"They told me a lot of the females move up into management. I was into it," senior Shanya Louissaint said. "It's not every day you get an opportunity just to get hired, and you go into the workforce and get all of your school paid for cause there's a lot of us that's not really financially stable, and with the pandemic, it messed up a lot of scholarship opportunities, and it pushed a lot of things back."
For more information on apprenticeship programs, click here.