BIG FLATS, N.Y. (WETM) — On Thursday, around 500 students from area high schools gathered at the Big Flats Municipal Campus to get a hands-on approach to trades and alternative career paths.

Growing Skilled Trades is seen as a new event in the Southern Tier and gave students the opportunity to put on a hard hat and get to work hammering nails, taking a shot at welding, operating heavy machinery, and much more.

The hands-on approach gave students an introductory look at the trade workforce and let them know that there are multiple options available coming out of high school.

“There’s a huge opportunity for students right now in the skilled trades,” said Nick Ahearn, Chairperson for the Growing Skilled Trades Event. “There’s going to be thousands of jobs available in the next few years, and we just want to give all the students any opportunity they can to be able to get a good career in any trade that they want,” he said.

The first annual event had a large turnout with great feedback from students. Ahearn said that they absolutely loved being able to work with the equipment, bend conduit with the electricians, dig holes with the machinery, work with the welders, and so much more.

Ahearn said that skilled trades are in high demand right now, and expect it to be high for the next several years.

Thursday’s event housed skilled trade workers from several local businesses such as roofers, plumbers, electricians, construction workers, welders, and anything else with a skilled trade.