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Construction Combine helping Treasure Valley students cement careers in trades

The Idaho AGC is putting on the combine to help students get hands-on experience in construction, while exploring potential jobs.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — As Idaho continues to grow, the Gem State is in need of more trade workers. Idaho contractors are looking to recruit the next generation of workers to help fill that gap.

To help students nail down jobs in construction, a Construction Combine at The Home Depot in Meridian is helping students get hands-on experience in trades. 

Nearly 50 students from career and technical education programs at Kuna, West Ada, Nampa and Caldwell school districts are putting on their hard hats for the combine. One of those students is Andrew Goretoy, a senior at Renaissance High who plans on studying construction management at Boise State University. 

"I'm trying to get as much experience in all fields of construction, so that when I get in there I'm not just like a blank slate," Andrew said. "I can know what to expect."

The Idaho Associated General Contractors (AGC) is putting on the Constriction Combine. 

"The idea is to introduce them to all the trades that we can, and have them have a hands-on project so that they can know if they're interested in it as they're doing their program in high school," workforce development program manager for the Idaho AGC, Kaycee Cron said. 

During the event, students go around station-by-station for different activities - similar to the NFL combine. 

Companies in different trades set up the stations to allow students to get hands-on experience in different aspects of construction: framing, concrete, electrical, plumbing, drywall, flooring, siding - the event even had an aerial lift. 

One goal of the combine is to get students interested in trades, and considering careers in construction. 

"At Idaho AGC, workforce development is our number one issue - our contractors all need people," Cron said. "There's definitely a skills gap out there that everyone knows about. So, we work with the high school programs regularly trying to connect them with contractors, trying to help educate them and show them what their opportunities are, and trying to recruit more students into it, because the need is so huge. Commercial construction in Idaho is very big. There's a lot of big projects going on, and none of them have enough people to work the job. So, we're doing what we can to help"

One student who believes he might have found his calling at the Construction Combine is Gerardo Caldera, a senior at Nampa High.

 "I was really interested in this concrete, because I got to actually see a little bit of a detail of the real life," Gerardo said. "It seems like it would fit me good."

He was offered a job at Andersen Construction during the combine. The company also hired three students during last year's Construction Combine, which has helped them deal with an industry-wide labor shortage. 

"Just like everybody else, we're fighting, you know, the lack of skilled labor. It's hard to come by, and it's hard to keep," senior project manager at Andersen Construction, Brandon Fonnesbeck said.

Gerardo isn't the only student who has connected with a contractor at the combine. 

"Last year's combine we had over 30 students get offers for summer work," Cron said. "We had some get picked up permanently after they graduated to go straight into construction trade jobs."

A great way for students to cement their career.

"You can spot them, you know, they're into it," Fonnesbeck said. "They're not afraid to get in and figure out - I'm giving them a problem to solve, and making them do a little bit of work. So, you can figure out who you'd want to grab."

Students are building 10 sheds together at the Constriction Combine, thanks to a grant from The Home Depot Foundation.

The 10 sheds will be donated to veterans on Thursday.

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