Outside of San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE)’s Educational Cultural Campus, students hammered away at nails and wood planks to construct personal toolboxes, while members of the San Diego’s Carpenter’s Union gave guidance and encouragement. Next to the Carpenter’s Union table and lining the walls inside were similar booths with representatives from other trade unions, all educating clusters of students on the well-paying career opportunities in the manufacturing, construction, transportation, and engineering sectors.
The San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) first Apprenticeship Expo was a career fair-style event to generate awareness among graduating high school and community college students about the benefits of apprenticeships. SDCOE partnered with Assemblymember Shirley Weber’s Office, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, and San Diego Continuing Education to host more than 300 students from San Diego Unified School District high schools and SDCE as well as 25 apprenticeship programs representing trades from metal-working and heavy machinery operation to aestheticians and public transportation.
Apprenticeships are a form of career preparation in which students learn skills through a combination of classroom learning and on-the-job training overseen by field experts. In addition to offering young adults access to high-wage, high-growth careers, apprenticeship programs are free and will even pay apprentices wages when they are out in the field. This makes apprenticeships especially attractive when compared to bachelor’s degree programs, which cost thousands of dollars and leave many students in debt. Cristina Marquez, the representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at the Expo puts it this way to students: “What we have to offer is a life changing opportunity where you can earn while you learn and then leave with a trade you will know for the rest of your life.” She added, “We look forward to attending the next Expo to connect with more high school and college students who want to learn about our apprenticeship programs.”
Expo participants also heard speeches from Assemblymember Weber and the President of SDCE, Carlos Cortez, both of whom emphasized the importance of exposing students to the diversity of post-secondary education and training options. Assemblymember Weber advocated for additional events spotlighting apprenticeships. “Events like the Apprenticeship Expo are critical to the success of San Diego’s students and our economy," she said. "Educating our students about the career pathways available to them and the skills and training required to succeed in those careers will help them make informed decisions about their futures.”
SDCOE’s College and Career Readiness team intends to answer Dr. Weber’s call and plans to host future Apprenticeship Expos biannually – one in South County and a second in North County. If you are an educator or a representative of an apprenticeship program who would like to learn more about future Apprenticeship Expos, please contact SDCOE’s Ernesto Rivera.