Students get some hands-on experience

By Dick Mason, The Observer April 26, 2013 11:09 am

La Grande High School senior Ryan Shaul gets some hands-on experience manipulating the business end of a backhoe during Oregon Department of Transportationís Construction & Utilities Education Day Thursday. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
La Grande High School senior Ryan Shaul gets some hands-on experience manipulating the business end of a backhoe during Oregon Department of Transportationís Construction & Utilities Education Day Thursday. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

by DICK MASON / The Observer

Wallowa High School’s Effie Burns got quite a workout Thursday. 

Burns took part in the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Construction & Utilities Education Day. The event, held at the ODOT complex in La Grande, gave students the chance to receive hands-on experience with equipment used in construction, building and related trades. Students also heard presentations about careers and visited information booths. 

Burns’ workout came at the jackhammer station, which was run by the Laborers Training and Apprenticeship Program. 

“I could really feel my muscles working,” Burns said. 

She said operating the jackhammer was not quite as difficult as it looks.

“I’m sure that a lot of women could handle it,” Burns said. 

The WHS student would not mind someday operating a jackhammer full time. 

“I would definitely consider it for a career,” Burns said. 

 Union High School students who tried out the jackhammer included Scott Yeager and Chase Stewart. 

“It is hard to keep it in one spot,” Yeager said.

Stewart said the jackhammer is more difficult to operate than it appears.

“It looks easy, but it is much harder to control. Once you get going, though, you get used to it,” Stewart said.

Students were told of career opportunities for people in the construction and building trades fields. The jobs are high paying and will be plentiful in upcoming years. 

These are jobs that require training after high school at a community college or through an apprenticeship program but do not require a degree from a four-year university. 

Paul Joiner of the Eugene ODOT office perhaps traveled farther than anyone to help run Construction & Utilities Education Day. Joiner noted that there is a surplus of college graduates but a shortage of skilled people in the trade industries. 

Oregon Trail Electric Consumers Cooperative and ODOT were among more than a dozen construction contractors, government organizations and agencies represented. 

They also included the City of La Grande, Robert Brooks Painting, Western States CAT, Certified Personnel Service Agency, Hampton’s Paving; Worksource Oregon and several educational institutions, including Eastern Oregon University.