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Rayshawn Simpson, a Bradley Tech senior, practices welding a pipe at the Career Life Mentor and Trades Fair.

Job fair aims to set students up with lifelong careers

Khari Pleas-Carnie, an 18-year-old senior at the Lynde and Harry Bradley Technology and Trade School, inherited an interest in the trades from his father, a tradesman at Rockwell Automation. He spent his freshman and sophomore years at Milwaukee Lutheran High School but transferred to Bradley Tech before his junior year after his father encouraged him to get more involved in pursuing a trade.

At a recent Bradley Tech Career Life Mentor and Trade Fair, Pleas-Carnie demonstrated stick welding, a specialized type of welding. The fourth annual fair gives Bradley Tech students – and middle school students from the Milwaukee area – a chance to work hands-on with skilled members of 18 different trades to get a feel for what they like or dislike.

"I got into the welding trade here," Pleas-Carnie said, referring to the trades fair last year. "It's a fun experience. The trades here help you get more jobs and more job training. It opens up your eyes; you don't have to go just to college, you can be a tradesman."

Dan Bukiewicz, president of the Milwaukee Building and Construction Trades Council, has been working with Bradley Tech since the program's inception.

"We come out and we really let the kids get a hands-on feel for what the trades are going to be. It's easy to watch a video, look at a wage card or read a job description, but this is when kids can start to sort it out and see if they're a good fit or not."

Rayshawn Simpson, a 19-year-old senior, has been attending the fair since its first year at Bradley Tech. He learned about the program from his freshman woodworking teacher and credits him for igniting his passion for carpentry.

"He saw me working on a birdhouse and said I did very well on it and said I should look into the trades," said Simpson. "He introduced me to all of these trades my freshman year, so I came [to the fair] and tried out everything."

Simpson enjoyed working with wood so much that he began creating new project ideas in his free time. He noticed that painters at Bradley Tech were spilling and tracking paint, so he designed and built a painting room in the workshop to contain the mess.

"I came up with an idea, designed it on the computer and put it together," he said.

He added that working with skilled tradesmen he met at the fair has helped him learn how to be a member of a team, plan things out and network with other carpenters. He said he is now able to help his classmates with their projects and has built a bench for his mother on his own time.

Bukiewicz's role at the trade fair is to educate students on the process of getting started with working in trades and encouraging them to get an apprenticeship.

"We have to talk to them about attitude, attendance and our drug-free workforce," he said. "They have to be 18 years old to work in a trade, but if they're 17, we can prepare them to start in the workforce. Some kids we get days after they graduate."

Pleas-Carnie has an apprenticeship with We Energies as a power line mechanic. He has the opportunity to begin working full-time next fall.

Bukiewicz emphasized how important the Career Life Mentor and Trades Fair is for getting kids involved with a lifelong career at an early age.

"The opportunities are huge and hopefully the kids are taking advantage of what they're seeing here," he said.

"These are family-supporting careers. Not only are the wages substantial, but they pay benefits and they pay a pension that will take care of you in retirement. I can't think of a better alternative for somebody that's not going to pursue the college route."

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