High school students also competed in SCC's Industrial Technology Competition on the West Burlington campus.

WEST BURLINGTON — Area high school students visiting Southeastern Community College's West Burlington campus Friday toured six construction industry job sites without leaving the parking lot.

That's because the tours were virtual.

The Iowa chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors brought its Career Exploration Trailer to the campus hoping to expose high school students to various construction careers. The trailer visit coincided with SCC's annual Industrial Trades Competition, during which high school students taking industrial trades classes were able to put their carpentry, welding and CAD (computer-aided design) skills to the test.

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The competition ensured the trailer's target audience was met.

Along the walls of the trailer were flat-screen TVs displaying a job site from one of six careers: HVAC, electrical, plumbing, sheet metal, carpentry and welding. When students put on the accompanying virtual reality headsets, they were transported to the job sites.

"It's great for people to look at," said Donny Turner-Gittings, 17, a Burlington High School junior taking carpentry, as he finished the electrical site tour. "It showed the whole entire site. It's a great thing to look through."

The trailer attracted attention as far away as Fairfield. Though Fairfield High School was not participating in the Industrial Technology Competition, it bused as many students as could fit to the West Burlington parking lot.

ABC of Iowa began using the exploration trailer in October as a way to expose students to construction careers in an engaging way. SCC was only its fourth or fifth outing, said ABC of Iowa president and CEO Greg Spenner.

"Going to a career fair with candy and a table and brochures doesn't cut it with young kids, so we created the Career Exploration Trailer," Spenner said.

Faced with tight budgets, many school districts cut their building trades programs in recent years, which has led to a short supply of skilled trades workers.

It is anticipated that by 2021, the U.S. will be short 1.2 million skilled workers, Spenner said.

"We have a whole generation of young people who have not been exposed to what our industry has to offer and the careers that are available in our industry," he said. "What they found most exciting about it and what gets them talking to us about careers in our industry is they put the virtual reality on and they're literally transported to one of our job sites."

Offering the virtual reality job site experience gives professionals in those industries the ability to talk to students about apprenticeships, through which students are able to earn money while they learn skills.

Spenner said ABC of Iowa has nearly 1,500 apprentices in school this year.