Students flock to skilled trades expo

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BDM Millwright’s Jim Waters discusses how the company’s display model dry bulk handler conveyor operates with students Robert Boccanfuso, left, and Luke Duffield at the Experience the Trades Expo that took place Nov. 16 and 17 at the John D. Bradley Centre.
BDM Millwright’s Jim Waters discusses how the company’s display model dry bulk handler conveyor operates with students Robert Boccanfuso, left, and Luke Duffield at the Experience the Trades Expo that took place Nov. 16 and 17 at the John D. Bradley Centre.

Although morning fog drove down anticipated numbers, the recent Experience the Trades Expo still had the attention of thousands of students from across the region.

Grade 7 and 8 students attended the expo Nov. 16 at the John D. Bradley Centre, followed by high school kids a day later.

They were exposed to college opportunities and business displays from numerous local industrial shops.

The event highlighted the variety of apprenticeship opportunities in four main apprentice areas: Motive Power, Industrial, Service and Construction Trades.

Organizers said the event is geared towards educating students about the careers that exist in the trades, and to showcase the skills necessary for the job.

Jim Waters, CEO of BDM Millwrights of Chatham, thoroughly enjoyed the experience showcasing what his operation does, and what it can offer.

“Days like these are invaluable,” he said. “The biggest marketing challenge is not our existing customer base, but our future employees.”

Waters added skilled trades are too often overlooked as rewarding career opportunities for students today.

“There is a stigma – if kids don’t go to university they are not a success,” he said. “Our top millwrights make over $100,000 a year.”

He said his shop floor has a wide spectrum of staff in terms of age. It’s anchored by tradespeople who have 20-plus years on the job, but also features apprentices.

“We constantly want to give depth to our trades,” he said.

BDM’s showcase dry bulk handler conveyor system, built specifically for trade shows, is an example of the ability and can-do attitude of their staff, Waters said. A week prior to the show, the system looked nothing like it did at the show.

“A week ago, that was just steel sitting on racks in our warehouse,” Waters said. “We designed it, used a laser cutter to cut out pieces and we assembled it.”

Jim Costello, Director of Education, Lambton Kent District School Board, said the expo helped showcase opportunities for the board’s student body.

“It is important to expose students to a variety of career options in order to expand their postsecondary school horizons and assist with career planning,” he said in a release. “This showcase gives students an opportunity to speak with tradespeople about their chosen profession and engage in experiential learning.”

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