Roughly 35 Pequot Lakes High School juniors traveled to Superior Mechanical in Pequot Lakes on Thursday, Jan. 19, to attend the Future Skilled Trades Orientation.

The event was hosted to inform students of career opportunities, particularly in the lakes area, that may only require a year of training or an apprenticeship, as opposed to a four-year degree, to become qualified. The Mid-Minnesota Builders Association (MMBA) met with high school principal Chip Rankin and guidance counselor LaVonne Murray in November to discuss opportunities to work together in raising awareness of the benefits of the building industry.

"Kids don't always have to move away and go through four years of classrooms and books," said. Colleen Faacks, the event organizer and MMBA Executive Officer. "A lot of them can enter a one-year program that they like and get into that industry."

The two-hour event allowed students to meet with skilled trade workers from the area to discuss opportunities available in their respective fields - including expectations of the job and necessary qualifications - over pizza and pop.

It was held in response to to a nationwide shortage in skilled workers in the building industry due to employers seeking "job-ready" employees. Students went station-to-station to hear about what it takes to be a skilled worker in the industries of construction, plumbing, electrical maintenance, heating and cooling and more.

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"There are options here within the manufacturing and building trades at some local community colleges and trade schools that you can have with a one-year degree," Faacks said. "The shortage of skilled workers within the construction industry is so high."

The event was also directed toward students interested in entering the workforce soon after graduation who are currently unsure of the career they would like to pursue.

"(The students in attendance) are not the kind of kids that are going to come talk to the career counselor and ask 'What are my options?' These may be the kids that would slip through the cracks ... These are the ones that would rather get out into the trades and start apprenticeship programs."

Faacks said students seemed more informed of their options after the event, and business members were surprised by the enthusiasm the students displayed.

"A lot of them talked about the options available to them here, and it was just very positive. A lot of the businesses said the kids were engaged and asking questions. It was a win-win for everyone."

With the success of the event, Faacks hopes to the Skilled Trades Orientation become an annual occurrence, and also expand to other area schools.