RIDGEFIELD, Wash. (KOIN) — More than 600 high school students got a taste of the trades at Tuesday’s Workforce Southwest Washington’s Youth Employment Summit.

The job fair was for students who may want to forgo tens of thousands of dollars in student debt and start training for well-paying jobs right out of high school. Workforce Southwest Washington uses federal job training grants to develop future workers for the private sector.

Employers set up spaces at the Clark County Event Center where they showed students what a career path could look like in industries that more typically emphasize a hard hat than a college degree.

The summit educated students on jobs in industries, like construction, that’ll lead to middle-class wages and also helped the teens find entry-level work.

“Everybody needs to have some training after high school, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a 4-year degree,” CEO of Workforce Southwest Washington Jeanne Bennett said. “We need to have more understanding at the high school and the community college and the college level about what these careers really require, so that we can develop training programs that will better serve those needs.”

Tuesday’s Youth Employment Summit focused on construction, manufacturing, health care and technology jobs.