Speaking Out for Young Workers

Speaking Out for Young Workers

Commentary and news on occupational health and safety for young workers.


My Experience at the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia Career Expo 2011

By Carlos Rios

On March 17-18, the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA) held its Career Expo at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. According to their website, GEFCA’s mission is “to raise the profile of the construction industry and position careers in construction as a top choice for any student pursuing a well-paid, exciting and rewarding professional life.” In order to do so, they partner with construction companies, trade associations, the Technical College System of Georgia, and the Georgia Department of Education to support training programs and encourage students to pursue careers in construction. This was evident in their expo, as many construction and utility companies, in addition to technical and vocational schools, were present with interesting, informative exhibits.

Young Worker Safety and Health at Georgia Tech Research Institute was present at the expo with exhibits focusing on safety in the workplace. One exhibit in particular was GeRTI, a mannequin with a sound level meter implanted in her ear. With an iPod placed in her ear, visitors at the expo can see the type of hearing damage that can be done when listening to music at full volume. This demonstration not only shows the health effects from iPods, but also those from work related activities, such as loud construction machinery and demolition explosives.

In relation to my work, one great aspect of the exhibits was the hands-on experience students interested in pursuing construction were able to gain. This opportunity gave the students a better idea of what they desired to pursue after graduation. In addition, I was happy to see that the hands-on exhibits focused on SAFETY and HEALTH in the workplace, something my research group and I focus on and emphasize during our live training courses. The exhibits showed proper equipment to be used as well as how to use them. In addition, my coworker had the opportunity to actually use heavy duty construction equipment. The focus on safety was prevalent, as each visitor also received a hard hat and safety glasses upon registration to wear when entering the expo. 

Another great aspect of the expo was the opportunity to be inspired with ideas that I can use for work. One building construction exhibit had an interactive, three dimensional display of a fast food restaurant. The display focused on key construction aspects, such as eco-friendly and safe materials used to build the restaurant (i.e. insulation made of shredded jeans and fluorescent lighting which used lesser energy than other lighting options). In order to see the information about these aspects, users had to touch the icons on the display. The 3D animation and interactivity gave my coworker and me some good ideas on how we want to design our online training visually. We plan on learning how the display was designed, since we noticed it was in Flash, but somehow incorporated 3D models from some other software. Hopefully it will not be difficult to implement if we choose to use this idea.

Overall, the 2011 CEFGA Career Expo was a great experience. It was good to see so many high school students get excited about possible careers they might join, as well as see that the companies that attended had a tremendous focus on safety and health. Attending the expo also gave some good ideas and insight into teaching methods that Young Worker Safety and Health can use in the future.