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Construction Career Day Offers Hands-On Experience

Area students benefited from two-day ‘Backhoedown’ event.

Over 1,300 students from public, private, technical and charter schools throughout the state attended Construction Career Days this weekend.

The hands-on career exploration event was sponsored by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and University of Rhode Island Transportation Center (URITC).

RIDOT’s Midstate Maintenance Facility in East Greenwich, across from Centre of New England, was the host site for event, begun 12 years ago.

Outside, students were given a chance to operate almost two dozen backhoes as well as excavators, pavers and bucket trucks. Under guidance from several professionals and with hard hats always on, they changed a tire while being timed, attempted to jackhammer and weld, do plumbing and electrical work and participated in a truck driving simulator, among other activities inside the large maintenance facility.

Kiely Wilcox, a junior at St. Mary Bay View Academy, was busy throughout the first day. Her group from the all-girls private school in East Providence placed fourth in the Bridge Building competition among mostly male competitors. “I am interested in going into engineering,” she said. “I liked a lot of activities such as riding the tractors, going up in the lift and the carpentry competition.”

Among the attendees were 15 students from the Regional Career and Technical Center at , accompanied by Director Scott Leavitt. Their carpentry program placed second last year in the statewide carpentry and design competition. For this Construction Career Day, using spruce and other materials from , the RCTC carpentry group built a small shed in just over two hours.

RCTC seniors were grateful for the opportunity to attend the event.

“Carpentry is a good trade to have in the future,” said Shane Prata.

“The military is my career choice now, but carpentry is something I want to continue to learn down the road,” said Cori DiRita.

“I want to go to college to get into construction management,” said Blake Pierce.

“I want to continue in the (carpentry) trade and plan on going to New England Tech,” said David Savigny.

“I’ve enjoyed coming here the last two years and I think I might want to get into an apprenticeship,” said Matt Greenwood. “I might like to be a private contractor.”

Domenic Izzi, Apprenticeship Coordinator of the NE Laborers' Trust Fund Apprenticeship Program, said there are countless success stories of young men and women who have attended the event. “Many have been introduced to various careers in different trades through this career day,” he said.

Burrillville HS juniors, Kyle Patterson, Alex Millette and Morgan Langlais, also enjoyed the activities.  “I want to be an automotive technician,” said Patterson. “I liked building and design and would like to be an architect for houses,” said Millette. “I am interested in nursing, so it was pretty cool to take blood,” Langlais said.

The Bridge Building Competition involved 20 teams vying to see how much weight they could support using just balsa wood. The winning team was from Bradley Hospital in East Providence.

Among several sponsors were Laborers International Union of North America, Construction Industries of Rhode Island, New England Laborers Tri Funds, Rhode Island Builders Association, and several other associations and schools.

Jeff Cathcart, Director of Technology Transfer and Outreach of the URI Transportation Center said he knows of several students who’ve attended Construction Career Days and went directly into the work force in less than a year. “They took advantage of all the opportunities made available to them here. “

Scituate High School junior, Lindsay Cathcart is following in the footsteps of her father (Jeff). She has attended the event for several years and has career aspirations in the construction trades industry. “I want to be an architect or in construction management,” she said. “I am also in the after-school Ace Mentor Program for architecture and engineering.”  

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