Students invited to explore multitude of jobs, hands-on

At the upcoming Upper Peninsula Professional Trades Career Days students from across the U.P. will have the opportunity to get a hands-on experience of for a variety of career options. (Photo courtesy of the CTE Committee)

By Joseph Zyble
More than a thousand high school students from throughout the U.P. are expected to attend the 2019 Upper Peninsula Professional Trades Career Days, which will be held in late September at the Marquette County Fairgrounds. The event is designed to give students an opportunity to explore a variety of career paths in the skilled trades.
“This is a great opportunity for students to do things like operate heavy equipment, climb utility poles and to talk with employers and professional trades personnel,” said Stu Bradley, publicity chairman for the event.
The award-winning program will offer a variety of trades for young people to explore including carpentry, iron working, utility construction, corrections and law enforcement, emergency medicine, masonry and concrete finishing, welding, electrical installation, heavy equipment operating and more.
“This year the National Guard is a new participant and there will also be a forest industry simulator for the first time,” Bradley said.
The event has been held every two years in the U.P. since it was first launched in 2005 by the U.P. Construction Council. Back then it was called the “Hands-On Career Fair.” This will be the third time the event has been held in Marquette County and the first time that it has been open to students throughout the peninsula.
Tony Retaskie, executive director of the U.P. Construction Council, said the organization is proud to continue sponsoring the event, which has been a gateway to introducing students to careers that provide sustainable wages in long-term employment opportunities.
“I believe it has become the single best way to have high school students experience a variety of professional trades,” Retaskie said.
Spaces have been reserved for U.P. students to attend. However, the late-afternoon session on Wednesday, Sept. 25 will be open to the general public, including middle school and home-schooled students who are accompanied by an adult and other adults who may be interested in a career change.
The Sept. 25 session will be held from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Some 60 vendors are expected to be present. During this open session, minors (age 17 or under) who are not registered through a U.P. school will need a guardian’s signature to participate.
Students and other participants should be aware of the following instructions if they wish to attend the event: “A 15-minute orientation/safety briefing for all students will occur upon arrival. Students must be dressed appropriately! Students will get dirty! Students must wear appropriate clothing: no open-toed shoes, no shorts, no hoodies/strings or loose clothing, no loose jewelry, no rings or bracelets. Long hair will need to be put-up or covered. Hard hats, hearing protection and other protective equipment will be provided.”
“The U.P. Professional Trades Career Days have proven to be the single best recruiting tool for the trades,” said Brian Sarvello, director of Career and Technical Education, and the Technical Middle College programs for the Marquette Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (MARESA). “Once students experience the thrill of using both their brain and their hands together and operating the vast array of high-tech equipment available, the thought of sitting behind a desk seems awfully boring.”
Professionals in attendance will include labor union officials, regional employers, construction contractors, manufacturing representatives, Northern Michigan University officials and employment specialists.
Kristen, a Marquette-area junior high student, said she was glad she decided to attend the 2017 program.
“It just opens you up to bigger ideas and jobs you can potentially have one day,” she said.
Cody Warren was a student when he attended a U.P. Professional Trades Career Days event several years ago. He is now a utility line worker for the Alger-Delta Cooperative Electric Association.
“I climbed a utility pole at the Iron Mountain Career Day. That changed my career direction,” he said.
The 2019 U.P. Professional Career Days is sponsored by MARESA, the U.P. Construction Council, the Upward Talent Council—MI Works! and the State of Michigan Workforce Development Agency.
Those interested in attending the Sept. 25 public session can contact Jim Yates for more information at or (906) 226-5147. Companies and other trades-related professionals interested in becoming exhibitors can contact Tony Retaskie at or (906) 786-1573.

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