LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The traditional college path isn’t for everybody.
These days, students, especially in Southwest Louisiana, are finding great careers pursuing a construction or maintenance craft. One contest is underway that may help some teens decide the best career path.
The teens are at the electrical workers union hall using electrician skills learned in high school to compete. It’s a timed exercise but will be judged on safety and quality too.
For more information on training and apprenticeship programs in our area, click HERE.
Sebastian Tarver plans to be an electrician and a plumber.
“I’ll have a job anywhere I go,” Tarver said.
He won’t have a huge student loan debt to pay off.
Olivia Habetz expects the training to be useful as she pursues an engineering degree.
“I think this provides a lot of opportunity because we need electricians. We need electricity,” Habetz said.
The students are Future Farmers of America, and the training here is in cooperation with the electrical workers union.
Eric Smith with the LSU Ag Center says the skills students learn will be useful for a lifetime.
“I showed value to my students in the classroom; that they could never pay someone to have to pay someone to do these simple electrical tasks around their house," Smith said. “If they wanted to change out a ceiling fan, they knew which wire was hot, they knew which wire was the neutral, they knew how to turn off breakers and secure things and safely do their own upgrades in their house. So, even if they don’t explore this for a career, this is the best consumer education.”
However, compared to jobs some college grads get, Jason Dedon, with the IBEW said such crafts offer great career possibilities worth considering for many. He says the competition helps hone students’ skills.
"In the real world, time is money. You want someone who moves efficiently and can put the application together with the least amount wire in the wrong place,” Dedon said.
Plus, he says there’s a shortage of electricians in the state.
“These kids get a real hands-on application—a career field that is in high demand in our state,” Dedon said.
The sign on the wall says $40 an hour, which likely sounds a lot better to students here than what some of their peers will get.