Student Program Brings Next Generation to Tour F&S

To best explore a potential career in the crafts and trades, local high school students were able to walk a mile in tradespeople’s shoes. Or in this case, carry the 40-pound tool strap of ironworker Erik “Cable” Davis. “It’s not too heavy now, but carry it on your back for a full day’s work and you’ll feel it,” Davis explained to groups visiting teens.

Erik “Cable” Davis

Many did try it on, marveling at the weight. F&S hopes they’ll not only “try on” a career in the crafts and trades, but that they’ll be part of the next generation of tradespeople.

More than 30 local high school students participating in the Parkland College-led “Education for Employment System (EFE) #330” toured F&S shops like the ironworkers, plumbers and pipefitters, painters, and electricians. There, shop experts and forepersons helped explain why they were interested in crafts and trades, often noting familial relations to other tradespeople like a parent or other close relative.

Positions also do not require a bachelor’s degree and can provide a wage and lifestyle many want. The work can be challenging, but extremely rewarding. Early exposure to this type of work may help students understand the path to F&S shops, and addresses goals in the F&S Strategic Plan “Foundations for the Future,” to invest in the people of F&S by growing and training the next generation.

The EFE #330 program directs state and federal funds for career and technical education programs at schools in Champaign, Ford, Piatt, and Douglas counties.

“The opportunities for young people in trades are endless,” said Nick Elder, director of Education for Employment System #330. “What we seek to do is to expose as many students as possible to those opportunities. I think more young people would choose this route if they could experience it in a hands-on fashion. It can be a rewarding career with opportunity for growth.”

Elder values how F&S shops make themselves available, even while functioning at a high work completion rate. Located at the Physical Plant Service Building (PPSB), F&S Crafts & Trades workrooms are all located on-site; plumbers are just down the hallway from carpenters, elevator mechanics, electricians, and all of the rest.

“F&S is a perfect facility for us to tour because there are so many different tradespeople located in a central location,” Elder said. “It’s a safe and clean work environment. The students can interact with tradespeople from all different backgrounds performing different tasks. It’s a great way to expose the students to people who have made a successful career in the trades.”

Mark Barcus delivered presentations to the students before their hands-on learning began. Barcus is the assistant superintendent of Building Maintenance, Operations, Maintenance & Alterations, a position that oversees hundreds of craftspeople. Barcus made sure to note how his story, and that of his coworkers, might provide an example to younger generations.

“I worked for my family’s carpentry business and then went into the Navy, and that was the right path for me,” said Barcus. “I hope these kids know they should find what they’re passionate about and do that. But they should know, this is a great option: you can work with your hands, make something to be proud of, and take your skills anywhere in the world to get good work.”

“We just want them to know it is a great option,” said Elder. “We tell students to figure out what they are interested in and can be good at and pick the best route to help you be successful. The workplace is moving towards requiring some type of post-high school education, but that doesn’t mean only college or university.”

One thought on “Student Program Brings Next Generation to Tour F&S

  1. We greatly appreciate our partnership with F&S! This is one of many opportunities they have provided for our students over the years.

Comments are closed.