CISCO Holds Inaugural Hands-On Trades Fair
July 27, 2022
CHICAGO – Like any parent, all you want for your children is a better life than you have. After visiting the July 22 Hands-On Trades Fair at the Chicago-based IBEW Local 134, Tony Dix feels confident his son Logan Skinner will have a successful career in the Union building construction trades.
At the Trades Fair, Dix shadowed his 18-year-old son as he went from booth-to-booth and gathered information about each trade. Afterwards, Dix said he got “goosebumps” thinking of the opportunities his son could have.
“I’m relieved to hear he can retire at a young age with a good pension and proud to think my son could actually work on projects such as the Barack Obama Presidential Center – that’s an amazing opportunity and legacy for him. With a Union job, he’ll also be able to give back. I wish they had something like this [Trades Fair] when I was young, when I was deciding what to do with my life,” Dix said.
Even though he’s retired from the Chicago Police Department, Dix joked that even he may apply as an apprentice for one of the trades.
This inaugural event, sponsored by CISCO, IBEW Local 134 and the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council was a huge success, with nearly 300 people attending. The event showcased CISCO’s collaboration, which included numerous workforce partners, contractors and 13 Union building trades, who all came together to help young people find their career path in the Union building construction industry.
Most Union and workforce vendors were inside IBEW Local 34, but a handful of Unions had hands-on booths set up in the parking lot – like the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers District Council 1 of Illinois. They described to guests the process of applying mortar to bricks, and the proper way to add the brick to an existing wall. After hearing the instructions, people got to apply what they learned and do it themselves.
The event also provided 175 backpacks filled with school supplies for children K-12, made possible with generous donations by 14 various Unions and Union affiliates. Backpacks not distributed during the event were donated to the Chicago-based Centers for New Horizons and the Chicago Police Department’s Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS).
This Hands-On Trades Fair was spearheaded by CISCO’s Education-to-Careers Director Jamillah Muhammad, a 14-year journeywoman with the IBEW. CISCO Executive Director Dan Allen acknowledged that Muhammad efforts connecting with the community is advancing the building construction trades industry for young people – which was evident with the large amount of attendees.
When speaking at the event, Allen reminded everyone why a career in the Union building construction trades industry is the right choice. “You will earn while you learn, have no college debt and be the next generation to build the amazing buildings you see in Chicago,” he explained.
Muhammad added that college isn’t for everyone because people may have a skill set that allows them to work better with their hands – rather than behind a desk. “You don’t need a college education and tons of debt to get into the trades,” she said. “I’ve had a very successful career and was able to move up the ladder. While you’re [at the Trades Fair] learn as much as you can about the various application processes. Each trade has their own personality and I know you’ll find where you belong.”
Another Trades Fair attendee, Anthony Luisi, brought his parents along with him. Luisi’s parents were proud to say he’s a straight A student at the Niles-based Notre Dame College Prep and is interested in a career as an electrician. Luisi spent time inside Powering Chicago’s new field trip truck listening to their representative describe the different career paths he can take, such as installing and upgrading charging stations for electric cars.
Teenagers weren’t the only attendees to the Trades Fair. Many adults visited who were seeking employment or looking to change careers. With the average age of an apprentice in the United States being 29, it’s never too late to consider a career in the Union building construction trades.
Many workforce affiliates were also on hand to help place individuals with permanent employment.