A career day held at the Parade of Homes Tuesday focused on the saying “try it, you might like it.”
Local high school students got the unique opportunity to talk to and learn onsite from leaders in the skilled trades. It’s all part of an effort to get students more interested in pursuing jobs in the rebounding housing industry.
Rich Eberle, owner of Eberle Custom Homes, has been in the housing industry for 41 years. And Tuesday he took time out from building a home to give Madison high school students an inside look into being a contractor.
Eberle employs about 200 workers and said getting young people interested in trades is vital to the industry.
“Right now we are experiencing a real shortage for the trades for the younger ones to get involved to basically take our shoes,” Eberle said.
Eberle said that during the recession, the housing industry collapsed, falling 80 percent, which scared a lot of students away.
“Trade is starting to come back around. It’s more something you can actually get into. Before, people were scared because they weren’t going to have a job, they would think,” said Abert Everson, a student taking part in the workshop.
The industry is making a dramatic turnaround, and Eberle and other members of the Madison Area Builders Association are making sure students know that.
“The average wage in the construction industry is $6,000, more than the average wage in Wisconsin. So it’s a great career, and it has a lot of opportunity. It’s also one of the few industries that has a quick path to owning your own business,” said Amber Schroeder, the Madison Area Builders Association executive director.
Business owners like Eberle hope to ignite interest among students and show them that they can build homes and careers.
“That’s where I was a number of years go – just starting out like they are today. It’s thrilling to see them step forward and see the opportunities that are out there in front of them,” Eberle said.
As an extension of career day, the builders' association is putting a lot more effort and money into its scholarship program. It will be awarding five $2,000 scholarships to students pursuing education in a construction-related field.