SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The San Francisco Department of Public Works threw open its doors Thursday to let school kids get their hands on big machinery, and just maybe consider a future in the building trades.

San Francisco has several big construction projects in the planning stages, from the new cruise ship terminal to the Warriors arena, but the city’s supply of skilled laborers is shrinking.

Enter the next generation.

If Isabella and other fifth graders from the San Francisco School were any indication, there isn’t a kid out there who wouldn’t want to work the levers of a backhoe to scoop and dig shovelfuls of dirt.

“I’ve seen it on construction sites a lot, and our school’s under construction, and I’ve seen that,” she said.

“I really enjoy seeing how you control it, because there seems to be a lot of gadgets on the claw and on the shovel.”

It will be many years before she enters the workforce, but DPW spokesman Mohammed Nuru believes it’s not too early to plant a seed in the minds of school kids who may not be college-bound.

“When the computer world really was booming, a lot of people started overlooking the opportunities in these jobs. These are very well-paid jobs,” he said.

An apprenticeship with a sheet metal worker, a bricklayer or a glassworker could lead to a job whose starting pay is between $43 and $48 an hour, Nuru said.

Around him, kids were getting rides in 30-foot cherry pickers and sidewalk sweepers, equipment for jobs Nuru stressed are not for dummies.

“If you go to the electrical union, for example, you still have to do physics, you still have to do math,” he said. In the plumber’s union, “you have to learn about hydraulics and how water flows.”

The hands-on experience shows just how much young minds raised in Xbox and Nintendo can adapt to the challenges, and just how much they have to learn.

“It was a bit complicated at first, but then it was really fun,” said Quincy, who found the control panel of the backhoe a little more challenging than playing a video game, “because you’re dealing with real stuff.”

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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