Youth Trade Expo at McCormick Place connects Chicago youth with skilled trade jobs

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Youth Trade Expo at McCormick Place connects Chicago's youth with well-paying skilled trade jobs in industries facing a shortage of workers.

The mantra behind the three day fair is "You cannot be what you cannot see." The career fair is aimed at Chicago Public School students looking into the skilled trade as an option for their future. Quintin Scott is already on track for a career as a pipe fitter.

"I like welding, it stood to me, it was fun. It was something unique," he said. "Next month, in April, I'm testing into the apprenticeship."

To that end, for the first time ever, the city along with 50 local employers, trade unions and workplace agencies, put together the fair as a way to show middle and high school students from across Chicago what work as a carpenter, a bricklayer or a truck driver would look like.

It's a win-win as the labor shortage in skilled trades continue to grow. According to city data, more than 71,000 people are currently working in the construction industry in Cook County alone.

"At the end of the day, when you're freezing at home, you're not going to call the PhD to come fix it. You're going to call the HVAC guy," said Othoniel Negron, instructor at Chicago Builds.

Participants in the three day event were chosen by prioritizing students the city feels are in danger of falling through the cracks, giving them an opportunity to see the options out there in a way they would otherwise not get.

"They're often left out of opportunities like this, and they have a higher rate of incarcerations, dealing with police, and this is really a way to target those student populations who are ready for change," said Alexander George, Chicago Public Schools work-based learning program.

And the trades are not just for men.

"I really wanted to see the options that I could potentially have. Because even though I want to be a nurse or a mortician, I want to see if there are other options that could be faster," said Yashley Herrera, senior at Pathways in Education High School.

The skilled trades career fair continues at McCormick Place until Thursday.
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