Tribune-Courier News Reporter
On Thursday Murray State University’s William Cherry Expo Center hosted the AGC-MSU Construction Career Day, which was invaded by more than 1,200 high school students representing 16 vocational high schools that serve 25 western Kentucky counties.
Among the swarm of students were about 200 Marshall County High School students who take welding, carpentry, auto-tech and auto-body classes at MCHS’s trade school.
Steve Freeman, welding instructor at MCHS, said the event was a way to open the students to opportunities in the construction field they might not know exist.
Career professionals that ranged from carpenters, welders and heavy equipment operators to professions such as architects, engineers and construction management were showcased.
“They’re learning about the different types of jobs in the industry and are even getting the chance today to try out equipment that they normally wouldn’t have access to,” he said.
Chris Nelson, executive vice president of Associated General Contractors of Western Kentucky, said 31 vendors set up tables at the event – each displaying the types of careers the construction industry has to offer – and the mission of those vendors was to connect the dots for potential career paths for students in trade school classes. While only Kentucky school students were in attendance Thursday, Nelson said the AGC hopes to reach out to schools in northwestern Tennessee and southern Illinois, too.
Participating vendors included Pinnacle, Inc., Jim Smith Contracting Co., Wyo Tech, Lincoln Electric and Vulcan Materials.
Hands-on activities included the option to operate a backhoe and mini-excavator, welding activities, climbing electrical poles with power linemen and driving a concrete trowel machine.
“We want to give them direction to the types of job we can provide,” he said. “We have apprenticeship programs and have set up hands-on projects to connect them with professionals in the construction industry.”
Nelson said an event like Construction Career Day was vital to the students, but even more vital to the construction industry itself.
He said the event takes about a year to plan, but is worth it because without encouragement to enter construction fields, it’s possible there won’t be enough available workers in upcoming years.
“It’s estimated that the construction industry will need two million additional workers by 2017,” he said. “That’s why we work so hard to put events like this together.”
Nelson said the event connects students with industry professionals who work in the industry every day.
Jared Robinson, MCHS junior, said he was thinking about a career in welding sometime after high school.
“This is helpful for everyone to learn what kind of careers that are out there,” he said. “I’m thinking about doing something with welding or machinery.”