Marquis Dodd was just about to embark down a new career path at Orleans Technical College when a gunshot to the stomach halted his dreams. He was a week into classes when the wound nearly took his life. One of the reasons he wanted to learn carpentry at the school was to get out of the neighborhood he was working in.
“I signed up for Orleans to avoid something like that happening,” he said. “I knew where I was.”
That was last March. Now, almost exactly one year later to the day, Dodd will be graduating Orleans and moving on immediately to his first job in the carpentry field.
“I fought through it with Orleans in mind,” he said.
Last week was the perfect time to reflect on his yearlong journey as Orleans hosted its second annual Hiring Expo that brought 50 employers to the school. Dodd didn’t have any networking to do – he’ll start his new gig as a maintenance technician for Post Brothers on March 13, the last day of class. But he still went to help out his friends.
The job fair gives graduating students a chance to meet and show off their trade work in carpentry, HVAC, plumbing and heating, electrical and building maintenance. A number of the nearly 100 soon-to-be graduates and other recently graduated students walked away with jobs on the spot.
The high number of employers was reflective of the growing demand and interest in trades, said Debbie Bello, admissions director at the school.
“People are realizing that the trades not only make for great jobs, but great careers,” she said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in construction and extraction occupations (including the five trades taught at Orleans) are expected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
The job fair was sponsored by the Galman Group, which has been hiring students from Orleans for the last decade. Ten out of the 231 employees currently working there are Orleans graduates, said HR manager Phyl Crafton.
“We try to keep a constant pipeline of maintenance techs from Orleans because we know the work they do here and the quality of candidates they present to us,” Crafton said.
Students had the chance to demonstrate their work, such as carpentry student Dominique Hensman, a Frankford resident. She and other students contributed to the design and construction of a miniature building, located right inside the school. The bottom floor was designed to be a coffee shop while the top floor presented kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms.
“Carpentry is just a puzzle because you have to look at all the pieces and put them together properly,” she said.
Hensman previously graduated from Project WOW, a program run by JEVS Human Services and hosted at Orleans that allows students to pursue their GED while getting trade experiences.
Dodd also contributed to the building model. He said he got hands-on experience with every aspect of the building like drywall and floor framing while constructing a bedroom on the second floor.
“There’s nothing I didn’t have my hands on in this house. That’s the best way to learn,” Dodd said.
Orleans offers classes on a six-month basis. Learn more at OrleansTech.edu.