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November 23, 2005
Trade Groups Recruiting High Schoolers to Ease Labor Shortage

Colleges aren't the only ones recruiting high school students these days. Many trade groups and employers are pursuing America's young people to try and fill the growing need for everything from plumbers to bricklayers and drywallers.

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U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the construction industry will need to add 100,000 jobs a year each year through 2012, while also filling an additional 90,000 openings annually for positions vacated by retiring baby boomers and those leaving the industry for other reasons, the Associated Press reported.

The labor shortage could become more severe as the need for skilled workers increases on the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast and in regions with housing booms.

"Do we have an immediate crisis? Probably not. Will we in five years? Absolutely," Gary Dowty, executive vice president of the Chicago-based Lake County Contractors Association, told the Associated Press.

Each spring, Dowty's organization sponsors a career expo for local eighth-graders, who get to build toolboxes, lay brick and use a jackhammer - and each year, the two-day event has gotten more popular.

The idea is to plant seeds early - with some trades organizations hoping to capitalize on the popularity of children's TV program Bob the Builder and home-improvement shows, including Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls.

Some trades organizations, such as the Associated Builders and Contractors, or ABC, have partnerships with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement.

They also offer training programs in Spanish, and they are trying to get girls interested in a traditionally male-dominated field.

The northern chapter of the California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors recruited 65 high school graduates for its first internship program this past summer. Of those, 35 completed the program - and 12 are staying to work in the trades.

Source: The Associated Press via the Houston Chronicle.

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