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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Over 4,500 high school students learned more about entering the trades instead of going to college and racking up debt at a special trades fair at the Convention Center on Friday.

“I learned a lot of stuff. I’d say I’m definitely still going to stick with a career of heavy equipment operating, and I got to talk to some operating engineers, so I learned a lot,” South Fayette junior John Mikesell said.

“I thought it was a good opportunity for me to get different ideas. I was stuck on pipelines but I get to see different things like welding and flooring,” Aaron Cardillo, a South Fayette junior, said.

Students got some hands on experience in construction trades like cement work, iron-working, and brick-laying, and heard other young people talk about union paid apprentice programs.

“Amazing experience, and we need more people. Need more tradesmen, need more tradeswomen out here,” Gabriel Schoffler, an apprentice bricklayer, said.

Watch Bob Allen’s report —

Governor Wolf dropped by to extoll the virtues of apprentice trade programs.

“Not only do you not graduate that program with a lot of debt, you graduate that program having made money and with a job,” Wolf told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

The construction industry say jobs need to be filled in Pittsburgh with dollars spent on construction up from $2.8 billion to over $5 billion.

“It’s airport, hospitals, infrastructure, expressways, locks and dams, office buildings, strip district development, so it’s all over the place,” Jeff Nobers, of the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania, said.

Ironworker apprentice Caleb Thompson, who went to college and then switched to the trades, sums it up.

“Now doing a job I didn’t need to go to college for, I can make six figures,” Thompson said.

If you missed this unique trade fair on Friday, you can come on Saturday.

It’s open from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.. It’s an opportunity for families, young people and anybody who wants to make a job switch to the trades to learn more about it.

For additional details, click here.