The Rochester, Minn., office of LVC Inc., a low voltage contractor with six offices nationwide, works closely with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Chapter 346 in Rochester in a number of ways to promote interest in the trades among school-age children.
In November, LVC and the NAWIC participated in STEAM Summit 2017, sponsored by the Rochester Chamber Foundation, part of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. (STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.) Almost 1,800 students from 16 local schools interacted with 59 businesses at the career fair, allowing them to learn about possible career opportunities in their own back yard.
A survey conducted at the end of the summit found that 80 percent of students would now consider a STEAM career, 60 percent were interested in exploring STEAM careers further, 45 percent wanted to work harder in their STEAM courses, and 25 percent plan to take more advanced STEAM classes.
And, on January 23, the NAWIC will sponsor another of its own many programs focused on attracting elementary school students (K–6) to technical careers. This one, called "Block Kids," is focused on providing information to second- and third-grade students.
"Our outreach to youth started at the national level, through the NAWIC Education Foundation," said Jessi Oeltjen, president of NAWIC Chapter 346, which has been involved in the program for over 20 years.
The program started out targeting fourth graders, but, since then, has expanded to all students in K–6.
"Fourth graders are ideal, though, because they are old enough to be able to maintain interest for 40 minutes, but not so old that they get bored," she said.
The NAWIC promotes all trades during its school presentations, including architecture, engineering, general contracting, electrical contracting, plumbing and carpentry.
"The schools love it, and many of them have asked us to come back," Oeltjen said.
"We have been involved in these kinds of efforts since we opened our office in Rochester in 2015," said Robbie Danko, marketing manager for LVC. "One of the things I like about the programs is that they are very personal, because they are at the local level. In addition, the programs help to demystify these careers for students."