State event gives students a look at Florida construction careers

Demand for people to fill transportation jobs is rising, says organizers

ORLANDO, Fla. – More than 3,200 students from 50 Central Florida schools got an introduction to what a career in construction offers thanks to the Florida Department of Transportation’s Construction Career Days. This event returned to the Central Florida Fairgrounds in Orlando for the first time since the pandemic began.

“We split them into individual groups and we assign them a schedule and get to go visit learning labs, they get to handle the equipment, go to the exhibitor areas, and then we feed them. That’s the most important part right?” said Laura Pearson, Construction Career Days co-chair. “It’s the easiest way to show a kid that the opportunities are there and that they’re available. From something that’s hands-on, whether it’s wiring or rebar, or whether they’re interested in technology, we have drones and our smart work zone trailer. The options are really limitless.”

Pearson says the demand for people to fill jobs is only rising.

“Gov. Desantis has also put in a major budget proposal for additional funding for transportation and infrastructure projects throughout the state and especially Central Florida. So all of those funds that we’re anticipating for those projects are going to require bodies to fill them,” she said.

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This year, 22-year-old Darnell Dastine was back at Construction Career Days as a member of the FDOT team, after attending as a student in 2019.

“I came out here and realized how interesting it was working with the machinery, seeing the technology we use that you don’t see every day. This is a lot cooler than I thought it was,” he said. “I’m an inspector three. I go out and make sure the roads are clean and safe. I was actually in Championsgate yesterday doing a final walkthrough for the diverging diamond interchange down there. And it looks great. It’s super efficient.”

Dastine is now in school, pursuing a degree in engineering. He says one of the many benefits of working for the state is tuition reimbursement.

“There’s health insurance, there’s car insurance, discount on the phone bill and things like that. So there are a lot of things that working for the state comes with. It’s not just a dollar amount. It’s also the experience — it’s just a really great environment to be in,” he said.

Vendors at Construction Career Days, like Geoff Scales from DRMP, Inc., were there to let students know about available opportunities.

“That they can essentially walk out of high school and apply to be an inspector, a trainee inspector, and walk into a decent paying job that most of the time gets them a pickup truck of their own to take home, a company truck, and they get to be hands-on but they don’t do all of the hard physical labor that it takes to actually build a roadway,” he said. “Inspection is an important function within the road-building industry, and we are looking for as many people willing to work as we can find. It doesn’t suit somebody who feels like they want to sit in the air conditioning and play on their phone all day. But it’s rewarding. You can look back at the end of a month or a year, and say, yeah, we finished that. We built that. And you can physically see what you did.”

And Dastine advises high school students to explore all options.

“Just follow your passions really. Don’t try to do what everyone else does. Because if you like what you’re doing it doesn’t feel like a job. That’s a true statement,” he said.

If you’d like to check out careers with FDOT, visit the agency’s career portal on the FDOT website.

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About the Author:

Julie Broughton's career in Central Florida has spanned more than 14 years, starting with News 6 as a meteorologist and now anchoring newscasts.