The Construction Career Day event had over 1000 students attend last year. Photo provided by Mountain Area Workforce Development Board (MAWDB).

An annual trade event in North Carolina sheds light on skilled labor shortages by encouraging students to consider careers in construction. Area organizations report that they saw positive responses in the event’s turnout, while hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel.

Construction Career Day (CCD), a free two-day event designed to raise awareness for the industry’s numerous career options, while connecting local talent with those opportunities, saw over 1,000 high school students from 17 school systems attend late last year.

Organized by the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board (MAWDB) and presented by Vannoy Construction, the event was sponsored by over 40 construction industry companies including Builders FirstSource and Windsor Windows and Doors.

Students got to experience hands-on learning opportunities. Photo provided by MAWDB.

“This was the second CCD that our Board has organized,” said Nathan Ramsey, the director of MAWDB. “…Construction employers provided over $25,000 to pay for the expenses of the event [while] in the past our board largely funded this project.”

Ramsey said that the board is anticipating holding the event again in the fall of 2020 with the focus of increasing work-based learning opportunities. Education and work-based learning coordinator for MAWDB Christy Cheek spoke briefly about the organization’s plans for the upcoming event.

“Next year we want to open it up to many more schools and maybe even middle schools,” Cheek said. “If you can entice students to learn at a young age, then they’re going to see what opportunities are out there for them and they are going to be able to create that excitement and career awareness and explore on their own.”

The event was comprised of several construction-related business booths that offered demos of various trade jobs for an active learning experience.

“It’s a very hands-on experience. Down in the pavilion, all the construction equipment—using that was awesome,” said Zane Walker, a high school senior who attended the event.

The event was also opened to the public on its second day, drawing the participation of several door and window companies from the area. Builders FirstSource had a “little house” on display with windows sponsored by Windsor Windows and Doors.

“It’s the first time I had ever heard of a construction fair being done for high school students,” said Windsor regional sales manager Mike Crook. “It’s just a great cause because the labor shortage is so strong in our industry.”

Tim McCall, an outside sales representative for Builders FirstSource and the coordinator of the company’s involvement in the event this year, said they were very excited to be a part of this cause and plan on attending next year’s event with even more interactive displays.

Ramsey emphasized the importance of providing this opportunity for communities, as careers in construction tend to be overlooked in a focus on higher education.

The organization is planning to have another event this fall. Photo provided by MAWDB.

“Many students are not aware of the career opportunities available in the construction and skilled trades sector,” said Ramsey. “Often, many students believe the only option for them is to earn a four-year degree and that’s definitely not true. More education is almost always positive but education is far more than what we learn from the classroom.”

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