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HHS students learn about careers in the trades

Students at Hastings High School learned about electrical safety May 2 in Dave Davenport's industrial technology class.

Kevin Fowler was one of several speakers visiting Davenport's class throughout the year. As manager of safety services at Dakota Electric, Fowler spoke about his career in the field, how students could become lineworkers and safety as a lineworker.

Fowler said a career in the trades is often overlooked. Most high-school students are going to a four-year college out of high school.

"Not all of us were cut out for that; I wasn't," Fowler said.

One of the things that many people don't understand, he said, is that a career in the trades is very well paying. In addition, there are three things he loves about the career: the people he works with are great, he likes working outside and it has job security.

"If a kid has the aptitude and interest, it's a career worth looking at," Fowler said.

Several people with careers in the trades, many of whom are HHS alum, have visited Davenport's classroom this year. Visitors have also included a mechanic for Delta Airways, a United States Air Force pilot and a technician working on computer systems in planes. Davenport said he invites several speakers to come in throughout the year to introduce his students to the trades.

"There's such a shortage of tradespeople," Davenport said.

Many students are going to college to get a four-year degree, going into debt and coming out without a job. Davenport said that if students go into a career in the trades, they don't only learn a life skill, they would be making a good living.

Davenport said the need for people in the trades is great because many of the baby boomers are retiring. He is regularly asked by local companies if there are any kids that would like to go into a trades career. One company even offered to pay for a student to go to the technical college if they would become an employee.

At a field trip to 3M last year, Davenport said he asked by they had a shortage in welders and machinists. The response was that many schools cut their industrial technology programs. Since it is an elective course, it is one of the first programs to go if there is not enough funding.

A career in the trades combines working with your hands and using your brain, Davenport said. It's one of the things he loves about it. The industrial technology department at HHS teaches welding, metal shop, wood shop, electronic shop, drafting and more. One of the things Davenport likes about the department is that kids can leave high school with life skills and walk into jobs.

"There's a great future for any kid graduating now; there are so many jobs available in the trades," he said.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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