A high school student takes a drill gun for a spin on sheet wall provided by Harris Construction to help students learn some basic and fundamental construction skills. Photos by Frank Lopez

published on May 24, 2019 - 10:51 AM
Written by Frank Lopez

High school students from across the Central Valley got the chance to get their hands dirty with workers from Harris Construction for a recent school trip.

Nearly 100 students from 14 different high schools were invited to the Harris Construction headquarters on May 3 to see demonstrations and participate in construction project exercises.

Through coordination with the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, students enrolled in a tech or construction course at their high school went to the 5th annual “Career Tech Training Day” to explore possible career opportunities in the construction industry.

A Harris Construction employee teaches a high school student how to operate a remote controlled crane on the company grounds.


“Its kind of bridging that gap between the industry and the students, getting the industry comfortable with our students and what they’re bringing from their programs. In turn, it gives our students the comfort and exposure to industry knowing that it’s there for their future,” said Anthony Ayerza, area coordinator of Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. “These kinds of events really help take that edge off and give both the industry side and the educational side exposure to one another.”

Equipped with safety vests and hard hats, students worked at different stations, trying their hands at drilling, sawing, nailing, cement work, operating heavy machinery and learning about career paths on the labor side of construction, as well as construction management and estimating.

Another major aspect of the event was to show students that there are other options aside from college that could still provide skills and well paying jobs, said Michael Spencer, president of Harris Construction.

“These are well paying jobs throughout the construction industry. Everything from the design side to all the construction trades go into building in our Valley,” Spencer said. “There is without question a wonderful future ahead. We are going to see ups and downs in the economy, more spending and less spending. But without question — over the long period of time — there are wonderful opportunities in the next generation for good paying jobs and to be a part of something bigger.”

Anastacia Romanenko, an educator for Central High School, works with students in special education programs. She said her students may not be the best essay writers or readers, but they excel with hands on activities that include building or crafting.

“We have students who may or may not excel at academic work, but when they come out here, they utilize the skills that they’ve learned hands-on — welding, heavy equipment, carpentry. Our ROP (Regional Occupational) Programs prepare them for leaving high school and entering the workforce immediately,” Romanenko said.

After the students practiced on the different construction projects, they were provided lunch from Panera, and shown a presentation outlining career paths in the construction industry.

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