"Now imagine you're high off the ground," the two men, both apprentices with Ironworkers Local 395 and Valparaiso residents, told the students.
"You always need to put safety harnesses on when you go in the mills for safety protection. It's crazy, but I love it," Beller said.
The two apprentices were among 125 volunteers, apprentices, trainers, coordinators and retired tradespeople from 19 different construction and trade organizations providing students with hands-on demonstrations in their fields during the 3rd annual Construction and Skilled Trades Day held recently at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point.
The event drew about 800 students from 26 Northwest Indiana high schools, said Barbara Grimsgard, spokeswoman for Center of Workforce Innovations.
It was hosted by Construction Advancement Foundation, Northwest Indiana Workforce Board, Indiana Plan and We Build Northwest Indiana and endorsed by Northwest Indiana Building & Construction Trades Council.
Grimsgard said each group of students spent a total of 2 1/2 hours at the event; 15-20 minutes at each booth, with the last half hour open so they could either revisit a booth they were particularly interested in and ask more questions or visit other booths.
"This allows kids to explore other options. Maybe they're in the middle and not quite sure what they want to do," she said.
Logan White, a senior at Hanover Central High School and Cedar Lake resident, said he came to the event thinking he’d like to go into carpentry or the electrical field. After making a cellphone holder out of copper pipe, he decided to add plumbing to the list.
“I really enjoyed the plumbing part,” White said, holding his cellphone holder in hand.
Jerome Vroom, a junior at Hanover Central, said he thought being able to do projects made the event more interesting.
"I'm a hands-on person," Vroom said.
Samuel Turpin, a first year apprentice with Plumbing Local 210 in Merrillville, said in making the cellphone holder the students learned to first clean the copper, lubricate it, then heat it with a torch to fill in any gaps.
“It’s what you’ll basically be doing on a job site,” Turpin said.
At the Sheet Metal Workers Local 20 station, students were busy pounding together sheet metal to build a tool box.
Brian McCabe, a second year apprentice with the local and North Judson resident, said most people think sheet metal workers only do HVAC. He said there is so much more to the work, including architectural roofing.
He said in this trade, workers don't do the same thing every day, should be able to find something they're interested in and will earn good pay. He said journeymen earn $43 an hour, with a total pay package equaling $69 an hour. The total package includes insurance and other benefits.
"I see the trades as the best way to build the middle class," McCabe said.
Chris Poulos, a senior at Merrillville High School, said he mostly wants to do carpentry work upon graduating, having been working with his father on flipping houses.
"But I want to be in the union," Poulos said.
The event also drew a number of female students, including Ayonna Taylor, a senior at Merrillville High School.
Taylor said she is interested in either electrical work or welding.
“I like the fact that they’re hands-on and that the scenery is always changing. You won’t be stuck in one spot,” she said.
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