HELENA — On Friday, eighth-grade students from throughout Helena and East Helena participated in a construction and trades day hosted by Helena WINS.
“A lot of people think that you have to go get a four-year degree, which that's not always for everyone. And I think in the past there's really been a negative outlook as to going into the trades, but you can have a killer living and not be in college debt. And there's so much opportunity. There's room for growth. It's a great career path. And so, we're really hoping to expose more people to that,” says Vice President & Director of Engagement and Advocacy for Helena WINS, McKinley Winkle.
The day consisted of groups of students migrating from one station to the next. The stations were run by various employers throughout the Helena area such as Helena Sand and Gravel, Dick Anderson Construction, Sussex Construction, and more.
Students had the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what a future career could look like in construction and trades. Some of this was done through VR and other types of immersive simulations. For example, students were able to weld virtually as well as drive construction vehicles virtually.
Events like this help highlight alternative education pathways for students about to enter high school.
“But actually getting to put your hands on and see it brings that to life of what the career path can do for you and exactly that little bit of exposure,” says President And Training Coordinator The Ironworkers Local 732 Apprenticeship, Brian Rigby.
And these trades can bring in quite a bit of money, as well. According to the Montana Post-Secondary Workforce Report released in 2022, those who complete a Registered Apprenticeship have more than twice the wage earnings compared to those earning an associate or bachelor's degree after one year.
“Really, apprenticeships are the best-kept secret. It's coming in, earning livable wages, plus benefits,” says Rigby.