Arlington high school’s first Skilled Trades Day a hands-on job fair

ARLINGTON – Arlington Public Schools instructors brought a new twist to the traditional job fair concept on Wednesday when they hosted the first Skilled Trades Day outdoors in the school bus parking area for heavy machinery on display.

The demand for workers in the skilled trades is high, so it’s in a community’s best interest to make students are aware that jobs are there waiting. The hands-on event brought hundreds of high school and middle school students face to face with more than a dozen companies to not only meet the professionals, but to see the equipment and tools they use.

Chris Whiteman, Career and Technical Education teacher at AHS in engineering and manufacturing, recalls when he was in high school, often the only staff who knew all the jobs available was the school counselor.That’s no longer the case.

Skilled Trades Day was driven by two ideas.

“We want to make students aware of what is available locally and around the state, and that there are good-paying jobs right here in our community,” Whiteman said. “Our second purpose is that if they can actually get a job out of this event, even better.”

Event co-coordinator Collin Nelson agreed, speaking for the next generation of high schoolers. The CTE teacher at Haller and Post middle school bused eighth-graders to the event to open their eyes to the possibility of jobs that might hold their interest now, so they can continue in that direction when they enter high school.

Nelson said CTE wanted to “go out of the norm” in how it structured Skilled Trades Day.

“There are so many career fairs with companies sitting at tables with pamphlets, and they do serve a purpose, but we wanted companies at this event to bring the equipment and tools that they actually use, so the kids can see them in action,” Nelson said.

The students bit. They got behind the wheel of tractors and cranes, operated a CNC machine, and held the tools of many trades in hand.

“This event brought kids into contact with jobs they’re not normally going to hear about,” Nelson said.

Whiteman said the strength of CTE is the connections and “word of mouth” built between the schools, industry trades, apprenticeship programs, workforce organizations and employers that support the vocational job track, alongside the college degree route.

People like Matt Poischbeg, vice president and general manager of SEA-LECT Plastics in Everett, who serves on the district’s CTE advisory committee and hosted a booth at the event. He said it’s important to provide students access to opportunities in careers they may not have considered before.The company performs custom injection molding from design to production, including recreational vehicles, kayaks and boats.