Trade jobs are in demand, and employers nationwide are looking for skilled workers.

In Central New York, community leaders and educators are working to fuel a passion for STEM careers, even during the summer.

They are focusing the effort on inner city and minority kids, specifically. Data from the PEW Research Center shows Blacks and African Americans hold less than 9% of STEM jobs.

What You Need To Know

  • National Grid, the Dunbar Center, Mercy Works and Terra Science and Education hosts 40 Syracuse area children at the Trades Summer Camp

  • The camp aims to expose minority youths ages 10 to 12 to career opportunities

  • It is free of charge

  • PEW Research Center says Blacks and African Americans hold less than 9% of STEM jobs

With safety goggles and thinking caps on, kids attended this week's free National Grid Trades Camp at Mercy Works in Syracuse. The camp is a hands-on STEM learning experience.

“I’m making the boat a bit stronger so it can float with more magnets,” said 11-year-old Naila Bey.

She said she prefers hands-on instruction.

Bey, a National Grid Project C Trades camper, said, “I'm more of a visual hands-on learner, instead of just listening and trying to figure it out on my own. Like getting a demonstration, it really helps me learn.”

Helping kids to learn is National Grid's goal through its Project C initiative. It seeks to spark a passion for the trades industry.

“It’s really to get these kids, ages 10 to 12, into a space where they can learn opportunity, opportunity to do the trades," said Tim Graham, National Grid gas operations vice president. "We have National Grid folks coming in, talking to them, from lineman to mechanics.”

The camp is done in collaboration with National Grid, the Dunbar Center Mercy Works and Terra Science and Education. It hosts 40 Syracuse area children.

Syracuse has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation, according to the U.S. Census.

Graham said teaching the skills early could be the way out of generational poverty.

“The trades industry pays really, really well. These kids wanted to know that,” Graham said.

They want to make sure kids know there are opportunities out there.

“Finding a new thing that you like and enjoy, and something that makes you happy," Beh said.

Parents interested in learning more about this opportunity can contact the Dunbar Center for more details, or visit its website at