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JAG Day at Reed High School Sparks Interest in the Building and Construction Trades


Reed High School students in Sparks explore careers in the building and construction trades on JAG (Jobs for America's Graduates) Day, March 14, 2019.


Representatives from local registered apprenticeship programs in the union building and construction trades spent the day at with Reed High School students, demonstrating what a day-in-life a construction apprentice is like in trades like sheet metal, plumbing and pipefitting, and more. Students got a chance to try hands-on activities, including a virtual reality machine that gave them an up-close look at what it's like to work as an operating engineer.


The day, known as JAG Day (Jobs for America's Graduates) is intended to show Washoe County School District students post-high-school education and career options they might not have thought of, like paid apprenticeship programs they can enter right out of high school.


"We're visiting schools to drive home the point that apprenticeship isn't an alternative to college, apprenticeship IS college" said Rob Benner, business representative for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada. "Our apprentices learn on the job and in the classroom for anywhere between 2.5 to 5 years—skills like geometry and business English, and high tech tools and software they need to build tomorrow's cities—and they graduate with internationally-recognized credentials. The only difference is: they get paid to learn and they graduate with no student debt."


About 75 Reed students signed up for and attended the event, nearly half of them girls—good news for local building and construction unions, who are investing in outreach programs to increase the number of women in construction in Northern Nevada.


“This was our third JAG session, after Damonte Ranch and Galena High School, and we’re just really excited to be out here sharing the benefits of registered apprenticeships in the building trades with students around Reno-Sparks,” said Dian VanderWell, apprenticeship recruiter for the Northern Nevada Apprenticeship Coordinator’s Association (NNACA) and a Reed High School alum. “It was especially great to see so many young women just jump right into the activities"


Randy Canale, apprenticeship coordinator for the UA Local 350 Plumbers and Pipefitters, says his son also graduated from Reed High School and is now a member of the Local 350 himself.


“It was great to come to Reed High and see such total engagement from these kids,” he said. “And all the teamwork, too. It was really refreshing."


On Saturday, March 16, students from around Washoe County School District will convene at Truckee Meadows Community College to compete in skills challenges for the regional JAG Conference. VanderWell hopes the focus on post-high school job training and opportunities will open up the field of options for kids preparing to graduate, especially after getting a chance to try out a mini-apprenticeship session in the JAG program.


"The kids really loved it," she said. "On our feedback forms, about 30% said they’ll likely look at the trades as a career option. That’s exciting."

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