Lewis Central High School is, once again, highlighting the ‘career’ in Careerockit with a focus on the trades – from manufacturing and construction to automotive technology and robotics. The school hosted its 4th annual Trade Exploration Day on Thursday, February 14, welcoming dozens of recruiters and approx. 550 students from Lewis Central and other Council Bluffs and Omaha-area high schools.

“We want to provide opportunities for our students who aren’t going the four-year college route and show them that a lot of the trades are in dire need of people to fill jobs,” says Joe Vinchattle, Lewis Central’s assistant principal. “We want to build those relationships now, young and early, so we can help to increase the workforce around the Omaha metro area.”

Aligning perfectly with Careerockit’s workforce development aim, Lewis Central’s Trade Exploration Day started in 2016 with 25 recruiters. It has since grown to include twice as many exhibitors, including mainstays Metropolitan Community College and Iowa Western Community College. There is also representation from local unions, the armed forces and area companies, including Conagra Brands, Lozier, Woodhouse and Acieta, an industrial robotic technology company. 

“They often bring a robot to let the kids see and interact with,” Joe says. “Any opportunity to promote STEM, I encourage that.”

Though most attendees are juniors and seniors, students in all high school grade levels can register for Trade Exploration Day.

“We allow some of those younger grades in so they can see these programs, get excited and tailor their particular course-load in high school to prepare them to potentially go that route,” Joe says. “We’ve had a lot of students come away from the day with a better understanding of what they want to do after high school. Several have been applying for internships or apprenticeships because of this.”

Joe says feedback from recruiters is equally positive: “They really love it. … It gives them an avenue into the school they might not have had otherwise.”