The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and Carolinas Associated General Contractors (CAGC) hosted Construction Career Days at the Charlotte Metrolina Expo Trade Center in Charlotte, NC, Tuesday, Oct. 26 to Thursday, Oct. 28.
This is the third year Construction Equipment Days has visited Mecklenburg County. The program aims to visit various North Carolina counties every other year, explained Marvin Butler, NCDOT program manager of the On-the-Job Training Program.
The objective of Construction Career Days is to encourage high school juniors and seniors throughout the state to consider a career in the construction industry.
According to the Construction Career Days Web site (www.constructioncareerdays.info/), youth are vital to the construction industry. “Today’s high school students represent the pool of workers from which the construction industry will recruit its future workforce,” it explains. “The industry is facing a severe shortage of skilled workers. If not addressed, the shortage will increase, affecting quality, safety, and our industry’s overall ability to compete in building the infrastructure needed by an ever-growing population.”
The event is intended to educate the students about diverse construction careers and allow them to participate in hands-on exercise.
“We found out the average age a person starts his or her career is age 28,” said Butler. “We would like them to have some idea of what it would be like to work in the industry. This is one way to expose and educate them about the possible and various possibilities in construction.”
Construction Career Days is a partnership between the NCDOT and the CAGC along with equipment dealers, highway contractors, commercial contractors and various agencies.
Butler said the groups brought in heavy equipment used in building highways. Students had the opportunity to see and use the latest tools and heavy equipment, talk to operators and watch demonstrations of heavy equipment in action. They also had the opportunity to check out other facets of the industry including masonry, drywall and welding.
“Kids get on the equipment and get to operate the equipment as well,” Butler said. “They get to experience what it’s like in the industry. ”
Over the three days, more than approximately $2 million worth of heavy equipment (approximately 30 pieces) was available for kids to operate, including iron ranging from skid steers, mini-excavators and scissor lifts to wheel loaders, motor graders and excavators. The machines were donated by Carolina CAT, James River Equipment, Charlotte Tractor, Mitchell Distributing, Charlotte Bobcat, Briggs Equipment, LB Smith, J.W. Burress and AME.
“Mitch Christenberry [of Briggs Equipment] was very instrumental in pulling the dealers together along with John Keener of Crowder Construction, based in Charlotte,” noted Butler.
Contractors raised much of the money needed to host the event, which was run by volunteers.
Butler said the response has been “very successful and overwhelming.” He added that compared with years past, the students this year had more time to operate the equipment.
“We used to have more sessions with speakers talking about careers. Now students are more involved,” he said.
Over the last four years Construction Career Days has reached more than 15,000 North Carolina students. Nationwide, the program has reached more than 200,000 students.