High school students from across Chatham-Kent got a close-up view of what jobs look like in the construction trades during the municipality’s first ever Construction Day event.
Hosted by Henry Heyink Construction and Huron Construction in Chatham, students were introduced to about 10 different career paths in the construction industry thanks to industry professionals who took the time to talk to students and give them some hands-on experience.
Organized by Rebecka Heyink, Operations Manager at Henry Heyink Construction, about 140 students representing each high school in Chatham-Kent were on hand to take part in the event.
“I’m super excited about how this Construction Day turned out because I’ve just been told it’s the biggest one that Ontario has ever held,” Heyink explained. “I can’t be more excited than I am right now because the rain held off, and the students are engaged. This style, how it was set up with the different stations, we were able to show them so many different opportunities.”
She said the day ran very smoothly and she was very impressed with some of the students and their questions. Some she said were already actively involved in construction and she noted that even if just a few of the 140 students joined the industry, “then we did our job and the day was a success.”
“If there is one thing I really wanted the students to take from today is that there is a job in construction trades for them,” Heyink said. “We put a lot of pressure on our kids to figure out what they want to do by age 18 and maybe today some kid was confused about what he wanted to do and we helped him out.”
Heyink said she was thrilled with the response to the first Construction Day event in Chatham-Kent and hopes it gave students a good option to consider for a career.
“This is an aging workforce and there are plenty of opportunities for young people to pursue a career in skilled trades and good money to be made,” she added. “If we can change the negative stigmatism that construction has, then we’re achieving all our goals. I think it was a win-win for everybody today.”
Coun. Aaron Hall, who was on hand to represent the municipality, was impressed with Construction Day and emphasized how important events like it are to making a strong workforce to meet the future needs of Chatham-Kent.
“We just finished our strategic planning sessions last month, and we walked away from that knowing we want to grow the community, and to get there we have a lot of infrastructure projects we invest in year in and year out, whether it’s our roads or bridges or sidewalks, or upgrading treatment plants. Those are all essential for us to get to where we need to be,” Hall said.
He added it takes the construction industry to make those projects happen and getting youth interested in skilled trades with days like Construction Day are vital to the future.
“We need the youth, just like Rebecka said. This industry needs new blood to take over the reins and it is definitely a solid option for the youth of Chatham-Kent to consider as a career. It’s important for the whole community,” Hall said.
He thanked Heyink and all the partners involved for putting on the event, for both young men and women, and giving them an opportunity to learn about construction trades. Hall said there are construction-related internship opportunities within the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and he hopes students will take advantage of those for the future.