A Focus on Building For Iowa City's Construction Career/Job Expo

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By Chris Earl

IOWA CITY, Iowa - For anyone who drives around Iowa City, just look up. Cranes pierce the October sky.

"If you look at the skyline of Iowa City, we have six or seven tower or cranes up already," said Bill Gerhard, president of the Iowa State Building & Construction Trades Council. "We have the (University of Iowa) Children's Hospital coming out of the ground, Hancher Auditorium, a new music building, a new dormitory, the first dormitory in 40 years."

Gerhard is in the midst of two days of the Construction Expo/Job Fair at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Iowa City. On Friday and Saturday, more than a dozen local trade unions will try and get the word out about future projects and the possibility of new careers.

Friday's focus was on younger people as hundreds of area high school students walked through the exhibit.

"This is important for kids to know that you don't have to go to college to be a success," said Gerhard. "We've probably had twelve different apprentice programs today."

Along with the University of Iowa projects, Gerhard said another major build will be in Lee County for a $1.4 billion nitrogen fertilizer plant for Egypt-based Orascom Construction Industries. Construction on the plant is expected through 2015.

"That is a five-year job and they expect to have 3,000 construction workers on it," said Gerhard.

As for the balance between learning and income, Seth Gorman, apprentice coordinator for Ironworkers Local 89 in Cedar Rapids, said those financial needs can be met.

"Every apprenticeship out here is 'earn as you learn' so you go to school and then go to work," said Gorman.

Friday's focus was not only on high school students but on returning military personnel as well. Bill Mulcrone is with the Helmets To Hardhats program to encourage veterans looking for a career to consider construction.

"On the job site, there's a brotherhood, a task at hand," said Mulcrone. "Everyone is trying to accomplish that task and military men and women - everyone - is really oriented towards 'how are we going to succeed' on that mission."

The job expo goes at the Johnson County Fairgrounds through Saturday at 5 p.m.

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