As two high school freshmen walked among the booths at the Washington Area Expo on Wednesday, they said it appears there are good employment opportunities with local industries.
But the students, Katie Baer and Kelley Siem, said they will be ready to leave Washington after high school to live and work in other areas.
Senior Anne Piontek agreed, saying she likes Washington a lot but that she also wants to see what different places offer after high school.
Piontek thinks many young people will stay in the community to work after high school, but she wants to be an ocean conservationist. That makes finding a job in the local community tough, she noted.
Indeed, keeping youth in the local area to work after high school and college is a challenge, said Darren Lamb, community and economic development director for the city of Washington.
The Washington Area Expo was a chance to get area youth and the general public familiar with the local employers, Lamb said. The goal is to provide enough local jobs so the youth stay here, he added.
This year the expo, which was held in the Washington High School gym, was expanded to not only include manufacturers but also service industries. In total, there were 48 exhibitors, including employers, East Central College, the Four Rivers Career Center and the U.S. Army. The event was sponsored by the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce and other sponsors.
Providing places for aging citizens to live is a growing field, said Whitney Pelton, administrator at South Pointe Assisted Living.
She said many students were stopping by her booth to see what types of careers were available, and she said jobs include nurses and administrators.
Housing Industry Jobs
The housing industry, despite its problems in recent years, could be another field where students may find future careers, said Kelly O’Connell, a loan officer with Cornerstone Mortgage. Students who stopped by her booth learned about credit scores and how buying a home can be a better investment than renting.
A career in the mortgage industry has some stability because people are always going to need a place to live, O’Connell added.
The construction side of the home business was also represented at the job fair. Tony Caputa with the St. Louis Apprenticeship Program said construction is on the upswing, especially in the residential market. And he expects to see commercial construction pick up in the middle of next year, which presents a great opportunity for young people.
The four-year carpenter apprenticeship program involves work in the field and the classroom and is paid for with minor payroll reductions from the apprentices and their fellow workers, Caputa said.
RTI Tradco is another local industry that has plenty of jobs available, said Katie Thomas, human resources assistant. The company, which she said is one of the largest titanium manufacturers in the world, currently has 50 jobs open at its Washington plant, she said.
“We have tons of job opportunities,” Thomas said.
A piece of a Black Hawk helicopter was on display at her booth. The company makes titanium for everything from dental implants to the aerospace industry, she added.
“It’s a field that’s not going away,” she said.
The military is another attractive option for young people because it “alleviates the what-ifs,” said Army Recruiter Sgt. Justin Voss. A military career can lead to a college degree and success in civilian life, Voss noted.
The Missourian was also at the expo to explain job opportunities in the newspaper industry. Newspapers can offer several different career paths, including advertising, news writing, graphic design and marketing, said Missourian Printing Sales Manager Stephen Trentmann.
Teacher Rachel Chambers said she attended the expo to see if there are future job opportunities for her special needs students. And she said there are awesome places to work locally.
Engineering is another career field that offers many different paths, such as electrical, computer, mechanical and chemical. BFA Engineering of Washington was at the expo, and it does site work design, such as parks and storm-water management for public and private entities. Raymond Frankenberg Jr., with the firm, said he is glad that the expo helps plant the seeds to keep young people in the community. As a member of the Chamber board, Frankenberg said it is important for a community to have a “growth attitude.”