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Students attend Build My Future Lee County career trade show

October 25, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

In Lee County, builders are having problems finding qualified people to perform the skilled labor needed to complete residential and commercial projects.

On Wednesday, the School District of Lee County and the Lee Building Industry Association held the second-annual Build My Future Lee County career trade show at the Lee Civic Center.

Frank Jenkins, president of the Lee BIA, said the main reason this show is put on is to address the severe labor shortage the construction industry faces.

Article Photos


From left, Savannah Harman and Crystal Nobles of Fort Myers High School and Jordan Lee of North Fort Myers High School at the second-annual Build My Future Lee County career trade show at the Lee Civic Center on Wednesday.

"We have shortages everywhere, from rental companies to mechanics. Our economy is good and we have high demand," Jenkins said. "For years, people have been taught the need to go to college. There are opportunities here for everybody."

College is not an option for everyone. For those in that situation, employment can be found right out of high school at a well-paying job in plumbing, masonry, electrical, air conditioning and much more.

These jobs can earn some people high salaries and the opportunity to run their own business without having to worry about paying off college debt.

Rita Davis, director of Adult and Career Education with the Lee County School System, said she wanted students to understand the opportunities.

"We are advocates for any workforce education whether with or without post-secondary education," Davis said. "We have framing and drywall and we're building a wall. We have solar and energy and you can learn to apply roof tile."

The career day trade show addressed the skilled workforce shortage within the building industry and all proceeds will aid in funding construction curriculum in Lee County Schools.

Superintendent of School Greg Adkins said he loves the event because it exposes students to what's out there.

"We have a need for this and the kids don't know what's out there. I think college gets overemphasized because you're talking about careers that are needed in this community," Adkins said. "The earning potential in these careers are sometimes higher than what you get with the college degree."

Indeed, Angie Gartin, vice president of the Cape Coral Mayors Scholarship Fund, was there to research the possibility of adding a scholarship for students seeking a trade at a tech school for the first time.

The career day showcase allowed students to connect with industry-related employers and tech schools.

More than 700 students got hands-on introduction by going from booth to booth to see what it's like to build a bridge, fix an A/C system, lay bricks, move machinery and more.

Bill Johnson Jr., executive director of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association, said the ability to show kids how strong the industry is and the jobs that are available makes for a great alternative to college.

"Skilled labor is one of the biggest inquiries we get from our members. There isn't enough help to go around and this event shows the next generation that you can make a great living in the trades," Johnson said. "A lot of these jobs you can get into right out of high school."

Among those who came to the show was Jordan Lee, a senior at North Fort Myers High School, whose father owns Lee Drywall Inc. She pointed to her father's work ethic as an inspiration.

"I want to go into marine biology at FGCU, but my dad is a big role model in my life and he tells me if I work hard enough, I can get somewhere," Lee said. "He busts his butt and makes a great impression on people."

Lisandra Marrero of Mariner High School, said she liked all the building industry activities.

"There are a lot of interesting things I may like to pursue. There is a lot of cool stuff here," Marrero said. "I would be the first person to take up a trade in my family."



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