‘Rodeo’ steers students to construction at Manatee Technical College | From the Observer

About 400 students learned about the construction industry at MTC

Christopher Emigdio, a junior at Lakewood Ranch High, was impressed with what he saw.

In front of him, Electrical Technology students Joseph Zagorski and Christian Perez were explaining to Emigdio and other high school students some of what they had learned in their time at Manatee Technical College.

Emigdio was one of about 400 high school students that came from Sarasota and Manatee counties to the Construction Rodeo, which is a hands-on introduction to the construction industry for high school students. The students explored the industry through electricity, HVAC, carpentry and plumbing programs, among others.

Mary Dougherty, executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, said the event is to interest high schoolers as well as a way to bring more people to the workforce.

“A big problem in the industry is the labor shortage,” Dougherty said, noting an oncoming “retirement tsunami.” This event, she said, “was kind of a match made in heaven.”

The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange sponsored the event, which alternates between Manatee Technical College and Suncoast Technical College in Sarasota.

Lakewood Ranch High School students and MTC students look at a project that’s been wired and electrified.

Dougherty said this year’s event was the biggest in terms of attendance.

“The young people are coming prepared with better questions,” she said.

Aside from the hands-on-experience students received, they were also educated on details like resumes, how to apply for jobs, salaries and benefits. Nick Ninos, safety director for Bright Future electricity, provided more personal advice to the students.

“Believe in yourselves,” he said. “The rest will take care of itself.”

Chuck Jacobson, who owns Aqua Plumbing and is chair of the subcontractor’s council with the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, appreciated the event shined a light on opportunities besides college.

“This is where I came from, 40 years ago,” he said. “College isn’t for everybody.”

He said seeing all of the students engaged and learning gives him hope for the future of the construction industry.

Isaiah Greenwald, a freshman at Braden River High School, found the event engaging.

“It’s really cool to learn about all the different places I can go into,” he said.

Eric Sanders, college and career adviser at Braden River, said he noticed students responding well to the event.

“It opens the kids’ eyes,” he said. “This is a good thing for our kids.”

Mark Fulwood, a junior at Lakewood Ranch High School, said he was interested in the event specifically to learn more about the Electrical Technology program.

“My grandpa, he was an electrician,” he said. “I’m trying to learn the trade.”

Fulwood said he enjoyed learning something new, like terminology and skills.

Larry Beebe, an instructor in the Electrical Technology Program, said he hopes the program stimulates students and opens their eyes to the possibility of attending MTC.

“We can’t teach as fast as the outside world can employ them,” he said.

Beebe said he’s partial to his program, but is OK with any student choosing MTC program.

They certainly now know there are plenty of options.

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