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News from 2022-2023

Posted: March 29, 2023

APS Career Fair Gives Students Glimpse of Life in the Skilled Trades

Inaugural event aimed at showing students paths into such careers as plumbing and mechanics

Students get hands on experience with a mini-excavator during Tuesday's career fair.

Students get hands on experience with a mini-excavator during Tuesday's career fair.

Fire trucks from northern New Mexico. A Bobcat and a mini-excavator. Even a towering crane.

Hundreds of students from Albuquerque Public Schools and neighboring districts got to explore the world of possibilities available to them in the trades and in such fields as policing and firefighting as part of the inaugural High School Grades 2 Skilled Trades career fair held Tuesday at the Berna Facio Professional Development Center.

And they got to see some of the cool equipment they’d be working with if they follow those paths. Several students even got to try their hand at operating some of the equipment, like the mini-excavator.

Among them was Steven Martinez, a La Cueva High School freshman, who jumped into the excavator’s seat, latched onto the controls and tried his hand at lifting the bucket.

“They’re really sensitive,” he said of the controls, adding that his interests lie in carpentry.

Lukas Maez then jumped into the excavator, took the controls and easily maneuvered the machine. The Los Lunas High School sophomore said he’s used similar equipment to clean ditches on his family’s ranch.

He hopped off, and Jeremiah Lujan, also a student at Los Lunas High, took his turn. Lujan swiveled around and picked up the bucket like an expert.

“That’s Valencia County for you,” Maez said. “We’re different down there.”

Nearby, Veronica Buenrostro, with Operating Engineers Local 953 Journeyman and Apprentice Training Program, talked to students about the training they can receive to become an equipment operator, heavy duty mechanic, stationary mechanic or even a crane operator. The training takes about three years, and while participants do pay union dues, their training is free.

“Once they’re out of a training program, we find them a job,” Buenrostro said, adding that her goal was to let students know college isn’t the only option for those wanting to make a good living.

Rio Grande High School students Dylan Alvarez and Damian Valenzuela were among those visiting the various booths, and they were happy that vendors were telling them what steps were needed to pursue careers in the various fields.

“You get to see what you need to get in there,” said Alvarez, a freshman who is interested in becoming a firefighter or police officer. He’s also considering the Army.

The fair was put on by the Albuquerque Public Schools Apprenticeship Council and began as an initiative by the APS Education Foundation’s student board members to provide their peers the same opportunity to experience career fairs as they do college fairs.

In conjunction with APS College and Career Counselors, they created an APS Apprenticeship Council consisting of trade industry leaders. The council is now led by New Mexico Workforce Solutions and the APS Career Technical Education department.

More than 40 companies, agencies and other vendors took part in Tuesday’s fair, including TLC Plumbing & Utility.

Caleb Miller, a lead technical trainer for TLC, said the goal of the career fair for his company wasn’t to hire, but rather to plant a seed about potential careers. The hope, he said, is that the students remember and consider it a viable option down the road.

“Most don’t know about trades,” Miller said. “You have a job from Day 1. You’re paid from Day 1.”

He said students he talked to were surprised to learn the earning potential. He handed out cards that spelled that out, along with responsibilities and what’s required to get licensed. Plumbers, he said, can make $35,000 their first year and as much as $85,000 or more down the road.

That, he noted, is as much or more than many people with college degrees.