PUYALLUP, Wash. – They walked on beams and fastened bolts. They pushed wheelbarrows and hauled cement blocks. They soared high above the Showplex floor in hydraulic lifts. They welded. They hammered. They fastened. And they had a lot of fun doing it.

Nearly 2,500 high-school students from Pierce, King and Thurston counties descended upon the Fair Grounds in Puyallup on Thursday afternoon for the 10th annual Pierce County Career Day – the largest of its kind in the state of Washington.

Organizers of the event founded it as fewer and fewer young people started to show interest in career paths like construction, utilities, transportation and the trades—career paths that pay well and don’t require the debt burdens of a four-year college degree. To introduce young people to these career paths, event organizers found the key to engaging them: hands-on activities that require interaction.

“Events like Pierce County Career Day are essential in our efforts to introduce these rewarding, family-wage careers to our young people,” said Linda Nguyen, CEO of WorkForce Central. “The hands-on, interactive exhibits give high-school students a chance to experience what these careers are really like, and give educators a better understanding of which careers might appeal to their students. It is truly inspiring to see these students learn about the many career paths available to them, and we look forward to the event’s next 10 years.”

Today, the event is bigger than ever thanks to the Pierce County Construction Partnership – convened on behalf of the Pierce County Workforce Development Council (WDC) and WorkForce Central – and many generous sponsors. It’s one of only a few places where you can find so many students outside the classroom and off the field without a screen in front of them.

WorkForce Central strengthens the Pierce County economy by identifying skill gaps between jobseekers and employment opportunities, fostering data-driven decision making, and connecting workforce development partners into a cohesive, collaborative and effective network.