By Amy Kent
The Clinton Herald
CAMANCHE — Approximately 69 percent of Iowa high school seniors went on to attend college within 16 months after graduation in 2011 according to the Iowa Department of Education.
So what happened to the other 31 percent?
Some may have gone directly into the work field, some may have enlisted in the military and some may not have done anything, but with those statistics unknown there is one thing that is — not all students are interested in attending college.
To ensure that students are made aware of all the options available to them after they graduate, Camanche High School principal Chuck Wiebenga did something on Tuesday that has never been done in the history of the school — he helped sponsor a trade exhibition fair.
“The goal is to give kids an opportunity to learn about jobs in the skilled trades,” he said. “Especially for the students who don’t want to go to college.”
The trade fair featured guests from vocational schools, colleges that only offer two-year degrees and companies offering apprenticeship programs among a multitude of others. And although each representative offered something different to the students who attended the fair, most had one thing in common.
“We wanted to feature as many Camanche graduates or people who have ties to the city of Camanche as possible,” Wiebenga said. “That way the students could see the success that Camanche graduates have had in the trades.”
Some of those success stories came from Camanche Fire Department Lt. Jim Sowle and local contractor Bob Edens who both drew interest in their respective fields from intrigued students.
Another popular information booth was the Midwest Technical Institute which offered students a chance at a welding simulator.
Camanche High School freshman Andrew George favored the welding simulator during the fair in part because he could challenge his friends to welding speed, but also because it allowed him a chance to try something he’d never tried before.
“I like the simulator a lot; it’s pretty cool,” George said. “It helped me get to know what welding would be like and how I could learn how to do it.”
Juniors Damian Sweely and Aaron Lovell’s interest were drawn elsewhere on Tuesday though as they explored a career as a union plumber or pipefitter.
Local 25 Plumbers and Pipefitters apprentice instructor Chuck McKnight explained the ins and outs of the five-year program offered through Local 25 to both Lovell and Sweely.
“It’s nice to have these other opportunities available to us,” Lovell said.
“If we’re unsure about what we want to do, this gives us something different to lean toward,” Sweely added.
Whether the students decided to pursue a career in plumbing or pipefitting was one thing to McKnight, but as a guest at the trade fair, he felt the most important thing was to make sure they had all the after-high-school avenues available to them.
“About half the students I’ve talked to have shown actual interest in this career,” he said. “But I think it’s nice that they have access to the different avenues they can pursue. The important thing is to let them know they don’t have to go to college and rack up debt if they don’t want to.”