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Students get hands-on exposure to construction jobs

  • Clear Lake High School 10th grader Maddie Baarsch learns how to operate a John Deere tractor with instruction from Patrick Williams during the Careers in Construction Expo at the Veterans Building in Santa Rosa on Oct. 10, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Kenilworth Junior High eighth grader Diana Macias said hitting the nail on the head was harder than it looked.

On Thursday morning, Macias followed carpenter Frank Dabrowski's instructions and tried to sink a nail into a rail of wood in as few strokes as possible.

“It was hard to get the hammer to do what you wanted, in the right position,” she said.

Careers In Construction Expo In Santa Rosa


With practice, apprentice carpenters learn not to “woodpecker,” but to drive a nail flush with the wood in two strikes, Dabrowski said.

“They'll get the eye to set it with one and sink it with the second,” he said.

Macias was one of more than approximately 1,110 middle and high school students who attended the Careers in Construction Expo at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building on Thursday, getting hands-on exposure to a slew of different trades and career possibilities.

Now in its 10th year, the Careers in Construction Expo is back after a one-year hiatus spurred by the lagging economy, said Keith Woods, chief executive officer of the North Coast Builders Exchange, which sponsored the event.

Coordinated in conjunction with the Sonoma County Office of Education, the event pulled students from middle and high schools across Sonoma and Lake counties and gave students time to make sheet metal tool boxes, operate platform lifts, take part in mock interviews and even run a jackhammer.

“It felt very powerful,” Anabelle Padilla, an eighth grader at Brook Haven School in Sebastopol, said after stepping away from a jackhammer. “My woodshop teacher inspired me. He really encouraged us to get out and try more things.”

That is the goal of bringing together more than 10 live demonstrations as well as booths featuring architects, landscape designers, plumbers and interior designers, Woods said.

“We want them to sit down across from a plumber and say 'What's it like? What do I make? What do I need to do?'” Woods said. “We want kids to at least consider construction and not as a last resort.”

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