SALAMANCA — Earlier this month, the sounds of power tools, truck engines and MIG/TIG welding filled the Buffalo Versailles Road Hall in Lakeview as Salamanca students flooded the Construction Career Fair.
The bustling Union Center floor was packed with tables and authentic demonstrations, facilitated by industry professionals. A trucking semi, flanked by two rollers to show the truck’s blind spots to students, sat in the center of the floor.
A wrecking ball crane towered about the horizon. A welding hub, masonry station, machinery tractor and pipe sweating demonstration were just some of the “booths” open to students.
“There is another side of STEAM, not often discussed in education circles but every bit just as valid and critical to the success of our students,” said Aaron Straus, Salamanca’s instructional coach of STEAM. “It’s here that pupils can explore the trades through hands-on booths from businesses and schools that provide apprentice training or vocational education.”
For the week leading up to the event, Seneca Nation education coordinators Sunnea John and Katrina Ray visited the school during a STEAM Café to raise the efficacy of careers in the trades.
“Trades are for women too,” John stressed to her female audience. “This is a great place to figure out what trade is right for you,” added Ray.
Inside the career fair, students traveled from booth to booth to speak with industry professionals and determine if the trades were right for them.
“There were a lot of interesting booths at the fair, but my favorite was the truck driving courses,” said 8th grader Tia Helgager.
At the next table over, leaders from the Stationary Engineer Union drew students with a steaming pipework simulation.
“I had no idea companies will pay you to learn,” said Prestyn Washington, another student.
All Career Fair attendees received an industry hard hat, protective glasses and were encouraged to ask tradesmen questions during the event such as: What qualities do you look for in a potential employee? What common work mistakes do you see? Can you share 1-2 tips job seeking tips for HS students?
“These questions are just as important for Salamanca students that can learn about trade work cultures,” Straus said.
“Choosing a career path can be overwhelming to students, so having these conversations with many types of industries, in one central location, such as a career fair, can be of great value to our students,” added CTE chair Nancy Middaugh.
Salamanca sophomore Jerry Strang said he has started thinking about what he is going to do after high school. Being able to go to the career fair is good because it helps students like him find out what types of jobs are out there.
Kaine Whitcomb, a 9th grader, discovered his love for climbing as he ascended the four-story construction scaffold.
“Providing opportunities like this for the students is very beneficial to their future,” said Chris Siebert, high school principal. “Many students don’t know what they want to do and having this opportunity may help them decide.”
Tom Herrmann from the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association talked to students about the apprenticeship program in the school’s two-year degree in automotive technology. “We will pay for you to learn how to fix a car.”
The students and faculty alike were perplexed by the prospects of careers in construction. “In school, we hear a lot about college and, I mean, a lot of [tradesmen] make pretty decent money,” said Salamanca student Karsen Schoening.
“I want to do more welding in high school,” added Jerono Solat.
The Salamanca High School STEAM Wing is scheduled to open later this fall. Between BOCES and Salamanca’s own STEAM programs, several CTE courses will be offered to the Salamanca community.
“The collaboration with the Seneca Nation was key in raising awareness and providing this opportunity for our students,” Straus said.