High school students from Delta and Schoolcraft counties and from Sault Saint Marie were at the U.P. State fairgrounds Thursday, working on industrial equipment. They were exploring careers in the trades.
You probably remember playing with toy construction trucks as a kid, but students were test driving the real deal. That's right...they're driving excavating equipment.
"Going outside, driving the excavators, going up high in the power line thing. Doing a lot of things that were out of my comfort zone," said Sierra Possi, Gladstone High School.
It's all part of an annual career fair organized by the Upper Peninsula Construction Council and the Delta County Schoolcraft ISD. Workers from different trades are teaching the kids what their industry is all about through hands-on experience.
"I'll be able to learn more about construction management and actually running a business, learning more about construction," said Alex Murray, Sault Saint Marie High School.
Outside, kids put their strength into trying jack hammers and climbing up power lines. Inside, they learned how to use equipment for welding, carpentry, and laying down block.
For the industrial workers, it's a way to recruit kids into their fields.
"If we can keep them around here working locally, they are going to do better for us instead of going out to Wisconsin or wherever else and expanding our talent that grew up here in the U.P," said Lucas Bradshaw, Ironworkers Local 8.
Students were also able to explore apprenticeship opportunities some unions offer. That means they can go into that field right out of high school, and most of the training and education is paid for.
"So students can go into the working force without a mound of student debt, earn a good living wage," said Luke Siebert, Delta County Schoolcraft ISD.
More than 420 students participated in the event. Each group spent two hours exploring their options after high school.
"It's a lot of fun to be able to do these types of things. You get to go all around, and most of the time you come back and work on things here," said Kevin Priede, Gladstone High School.