AUSTINTOWN - Austintown Fitch High School senior Austin Chappell had his career plan in mind long before he sat in the high school auditorium Thursday to hear a half-dozen skilled tradesmen talk about the need for new apprentices.
Chappell, 17, of Austintown, said he already knew about the growing need for welding and pipefitting skills.
"They need them because of the shale boom," Chappell said when asked about his future plans.
He was one of about 200 Fitch juniors and seniors who attended a trade fair sponsored by the high school guidance department and the Western Reserve Building Trades in an effort to expose students to trades and crafts that are in high demand. Welding and pipefitting were among them.
The high-skill, high-paying jobs could bring six-digit salaries, Marty Loney, president of Plumbers and Pipefitters union Local 396, told the group.
"With the oil and gas industries that are coming into the area, this is a career that you can build on for the rest of your life," Loney said. "The opportunities are out there."
But what's needed, he said, is a good attitude.
"I can't teach you work ethic. I can't teach you attitude. I can teach you everything else you need to know about the plumbers and pipefitters," Loney said.
Don Crane, president of the Western Reserve Building Trades, which represents 22 local unions and about 6,000 workers, echoed that thought, telling the group attitude and desire are among the most important issues.
Other important qualifications, though, are good math skills, ability to pass a drug screen and the ability to follow safety rules.
Through trade apprenticeship programs, the labor leaders said on-the-job training is offered for little or no cost, with the guarantee of union membership going forward.
"The union provides a safe work place, good benefits and a family," Crane said. "The work is here. The market is here."