Students from all over the North Florida region took part in various hands-on activities this week that taught them more about the opportunities available to them in the transportation industry.
More than 1,500 students from 45 schools in 10 counties took part in Construction Career Days from April 5-7. The events were presented by the Florida Department of Transportation and hosted at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.
Designed to introduce high school students to the wide range of careers available to them, Construction Career Days offered more than 40 learning labs and more than 20 pieces of equipment that students could interact with.
“The goal of Construction Career Days was to provide an interactive learning and educational experience for students,” said Carrie Stanbridge, FDOT’s District Two construction engineer. “The labs provided a unique hands-on experience that allowed students to learn more than they would from just reading about the construction and maintenance projects in a textbook.”
Some of the learning labs allowed students to use tablets to construct virtual bridges, while others let students touch, hold, and use some of the tools of the trade for bridge and maintenance work. Another lab by Anderson Columbia allowed students to make asphalt cookies. This process simulated the production of asphalt while using ingredients commonly found in cookies.
The interactive approach made learning more enjoyable for many students.
“It’s entertaining and it’s fun,” said Arshayla Bryant, a senior at Columbia High School. “It’s hands-on, so it keeps you interested in what you’re learning. You won’t be bored.”
Additionally, under FDOT supervision, students were able to use some of the heavy equipment often seen on construction sites. They were able to go skyward in scissor lifts, use a grader to smooth dirt, and use excavators and track loaders to accomplish challenges, like moving a block of wood from one place to another.
Kyle Gregory, a junior at Lake City’s Belmont Academy, said that hands-on experience was definitely a highlight.
“This is a great opportunity to learn trades and careers for the future,” he said.
The event also allowed students to develop contacts for future careers, and more than 20 exhibitors were on hand to provide information about jobs and education.
A number of scholarships were provided through the Construction Career Days event. Over the past three years, 16 scholarships have been given in North Florida.