Building a Career: Students Can Learn a Trade AND Get Paid

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By CHERY SABOL for the Missoula Job Service

Missoula high school students who are poised to finish their junior year have a chance to work this summer and lay a foundation for a job after graduation.

It is a unique opportunity offered by Jackson Contractor Group for three students to begin a construction trades apprenticeship this summer. Applicants should be interested in carpentry and construction, have their own transportation, enjoy working with their hands, be on course to complete high school next year, and come with an open mind and energetic, positive attitude.

For that, they will be paid $13 per hour while they learn practical skills that could lead to a solid job offer after graduation.

Jackson pays for students to take an online safety and health course and practical math course for students who haven’t passed algebra. A rigging in construction course is offered the second year for returning students.

Picture1The hope is that students will return to work full-time for Jackson, either after high-school graduation or after graduating from college.

Bill Fritz, operations manager for Jackson, said the opportunity has been called a “work ethics scholarship.” Students don’t have to have stellar grade-point averages to be selected, but they do have to be eager to learn and want a chance to prove themselves.

What the opportunity offers is “getting a taste of construction.” Students will season their hands with general labor and carpenter’s helper work all summer. With all of the projects Jackson has on the board, that could be quite a variety of work. Projects include construction of Missoula College, the new Food Bank, the Reserve Street bridge, and work at Fort Missoula. “It should be a good cross-section” of construction work, Fritz said.

In addition to paid work and building experience, students earn credit toward the 3,500 hours needed to become a journeyman carpenter.

Students may decide to go on to college and if they do, that’s fine. “We hope to snag them later,” Fritz said. One of the students who was mentored by Jackson is studying construction engineering at Montana State University now.

Leaders at Jackson are mostly college graduates, too, including Fritz. For years, young people were pushed toward four-year colleges after high school and the cachet of being a skilled tradesman became a little scuffed, he said. Now, the trades seem to be on the rebound as journeyman trades workers start their careers without school debt and “my guys are making more money than most college graduates.”

It’s a career path with a future; the Montana Department of Labor and Industry projects that 16,039 construction workers will be needed in the next 10 years.

Fritz has found that parents are excited by this opportunity for their children. But it only comes around once a year, so those who are interested should apply now.

To apply, contact Missoula Job Service at 728-7060 for a very simple, one-page application form. It must be returned by May 27 at 5 p.m. Jackson will contact finalists for an orientation meeting on May 31 at 6 p.m. at Job Service, with interviews following on the week of June 6. Work begins June 13 for the three selected students.



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