As originally written by Ethan Duran for The Daily Reporter.

Last week, WRTP | BIG STEP and the Milwaukee Building & Construction Trades Council hosted a record-breaking number of curious high school students at the 2024 Milwaukee Summer Trades Academy. The multi-day event featured 14 different trades and took place at different trade halls in the Milwaukee area.

More than 170 students from Milwaukee Public Schools, Racine, Kenosha, and suburbs south of the city tried different trades from steamfitting to bricklaying firsthand. It’s part of the industry’s effort to draw more young people in as many in the skilled trades begin to age out and local construction job openings number in the hundreds of thousands.

“The ultimate goal is to let them experience as much of the trades as they can see,” said Dan Bukiewicz, president of the Building Trades Council. “It’s a true partnership. We started here at the Building Trades Council and felt that our readiness partner, WRTP | BIG STEP, should put it on because they go in the high schools,” he added.

“We’re covering a wide geographic area, and there is a lot of diversity in this group,” Bukiewicz noted. Organizers try to keep class sizes around 20 because they find students get the most value from that size and are working with schools to address transportation needs and increase the total number of students.

“If we grew big enough, we could add some more trades to it,” Bukiewicz said. “The trades tend to work hand-in-hand. Like the insulators who team up with the steamfitters, so (students) experience two trades at one training center,” he added.

During classes, students tried concrete work, welding, bending pipes, and even learned some trades in a virtual reality setting. The nondefinitive list of trades at the academy includes electrical, carpentry, labor, steamfitting, iron work, painting, glazing, plumbing, cement masonry, tile-setting, and bricklaying.

Bukiewicz noted that it didn’t take students long before they were curious about other trades when they tried the first round when the program started years ago. If growth is steady in the coming years, the program could expand with up to 250 interested teens.

On Friday, trade academy attendees took a trip to the much-anticipated Microsoft Data Center in Racine County.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!