Southern Tech opened its doors to local high school students to give them a look at potential career paths.
Students from 13 area schools visited the campus on Wednesday and Thursday morning for demonstrations and Q&As with students and instructors in construction, medical, cosmetology, HVAC and other programs.
Roughly 900 students congregated on the campus, following guides with signs to different demonstrations. Each morning, groups would choose three 40-minute sessions to attend and get a taste of what different vocations are like. Carlos Ortiz, a senior, led demonstrations along with other 3D CNC machining students.
 “This is my second year doing this,” Ortiz said. “I organize, we let them see how the machine works, what the machine can do, and all of the other components. We let them have a little bit of experience, and we tell them how it works.”
Students used the machines to engrave their names onto medallions and were also able ask questions.
“This job is more in demand, and now more people are learning about it,” Ortiz said. “Kids are getting spiels about it here and there.”
In another building, visitors learned how to use mechanical and architectural design programs with student guides helping them through. Nearby, another group, led by construction instructor Jeremy Elrod practiced using a bulldozer to balance objects on traffic cones.
“We play little games like this,” Elrod said. “Weather effects our program, when it’s raining or muddy we can’t do much out there.”
 Elrod said the construction industry is currently contending with a labor shortage.
“There’s like 400,000 equipment operating jobs in the US, in general,” Elrod said. “For every three guys that are leaving, only one guy is coming in.”
Travis Southerland, an HVAC instructor, said his program offers a scholarship to students who return to finish the program after graduating high school.
“They’ve shown a lot of interest,” Southerland said. “It’s not easy, it does push some students, but it is successful. It has a high passing rate and it’s very doable, for sure.”