Using Sports Facilities as Classrooms to Promote Trade Careers | Sports Destination Management

Using Sports Facilities as Classrooms to Promote Trade Careers

May 09, 2024 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Photo courtesy of NEST

Here’s something you don’t see every day: Pro athletes working to guide students not toward sports, but toward careers in the trades. And they’re doing it by showing what it takes to keep a big-name sports facility humming.


Philadelphia Phillies and NEST, the pioneer of integrated facilities management, have launched the Skilled Trades All-Star Program, a dynamic initiative aimed at helping Philadelphia-area high school youth find their place in the skilled trades.


The initiative kicked off on April 24 when local high school students from Mercy Career & Technical High School visited Citizens Bank Park to learn the trades required to operate an MLB stadium.


Subsequent events are scheduled for Aug. 1, featuring participants from MyWIC, an all-girls construction camp.


Pro Athletes Guiding Students Toward Careers in the Trades
Photo courtesy of NEST

These future industry professionals will learn the intricacies of stadium operations, covering aspects from HVAC and groundskeeping to carpentry and maintenance.


“Partnering with NEST allows us to inspire future generations right here at the home of the Phillies,” said Carolyn DiGiuseppe, General Manager of Facility Services at Citizens Bank Park for Oak View Group (OVG). “The Skilled Trades All-Star Program isn't just about a single day at the ballpark; it's about sparking a lifelong interest in the trades that build and sustain our communities. This is a great opportunity for students to go behind the scenes and experience firsthand the impact of the building trades on the day-to-day operation of the ballpark.


Based in South Jersey, NEST helped establish the Skilled Trades Advisory Council (STAC) in 2023, uniting industry experts across the country to champion skilled trades as viable and rewarding career choices. The Skilled Trades All-Star Program is a direct extension of STAC's mission, seeking to illuminate the path for youth toward these essential roles.


“Rejuvenating the skilled trades has been a priority for us at NEST and the founding members of the Skilled Trades Advisory Council, and we are making incredible progress,” said Rob Almond, CEO of NEST. “The Phillies share our passion for the trades and will play a key role in helping shed light on these amazing career opportunities for the next generation.”


The urgency for such programs is underscored by a report from Associated Builders and Contractors, which indicates the construction industry needs to hire an additional 500,000 workers in 2024 alone to meet labor demands


Forbes notes, “That’s in part because we’re losing thousands of boomers from the skilled trades to retirement, and there aren’t enough people from the younger generations interested in taking over those jobs.”


Unfortunately, as a report from Jobber indicates, the trades career path has traditionally been presented as a Plan B to a four-year degree, furthering the perception that earning potential and entrepreneurial opportunities are far more limited than they actually are.


The report notes, “The thinking around pursuing a career built around a trade needs to be shifted at an institutional and parental level. To counteract the stigma around trade careers, families should encourage young people to pursue hands-on career paths, our educational systems need to demonstrate the viability of these career paths, and the general public needs to celebrate the contribution of tradespeople and home service companies.”


Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Phillies
Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Phillies 

Because trades are increasingly tech-dependent, high school students are a natural fit for many careers. Additionally, Jobber notes, the economics are in students’ favor. The average cost of tuition at any four-year college is $19,800 per year, totaling $79,200 plus the cost of books, which averages to $1,200 annually, whereas the average cost of a vocational school ranges from about $3,860 to $15,550 per year.


Fact is, Forbes notes, “the trades fulfill the top three priorities Gen Z has for their careers: entrepreneurship opportunities, job security and a fast path to high earning potential.”


Additionally, the rise of AI has GenZ worried that white collar jobs could be threatened, and even replaced, by bots. This is making the job security of the trades increasingly evident, and creating interest around those positions.


And that includes the ones operating the lights, Jumbotron, sound system and everything else at the ballpark.

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