MILTON, Fla. (WKRG) — Students from across Northwest Florida got a first-hand look Wednesday at construction career options at the Northwest Florida Construction Career Days event in Milton.

The career days are held annually to give high school juniors and seniors from Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa County schools insight into career opportunities in construction within the transportation, engineering and building industries. 

With billions of dollars of construction activity planned in the next decade, there’s a high demand for construction workers amid continued staff shortages.

“There’s a need for workers at all levels. Contractors need laborers,” said Heather Baril, operations engineer at the Florida Department of Transportation in Milton. “Our engineers need folks in the offices to work for them.”

The event was held by FDOT in partnership with construction industry leaders.

“We’re trying to appeal to all levels of interest at this point,” Baril said.

Students at the event got to try out construction equipment, attended learning labs and even took a ride into the sky on bucket trucks.

“We came over here and got in these buckets,” Tate High School student Jake Aaron said. “I wasn’t expecting it to go that high.”

Aaron’s agriculture teacher, Austin Courson, said he brought his students to the event to show them the construction career field had much to offer.

“What we want our students to achieve is for them to see the opportunity they have in industry but also see the opportunities where they can be successful and use their passion and connect that to the construction industry,” Courson said.

Escambia County School Board member Paul Fetsko said the event shows students they have options when deciding their future. About $20,000 in scholarships were offered at the event.

“Today is going to give kids the opportunity to say, ‘I didn’t consider that as a possibility, but wow, I could do this. I could learn to do this,’” Fetsko said. They’re hiring today. There are kids who are filling out applications and will start at $17 plus an hour. Kids need to realize college isn’t the only way to get to a really good career — one that is really fulfilling.”