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WKCTC Participates Annual Construction Career Day Event

More than 1500 high school students from around the region got first-hand experience in a variety of skilled trade careers as they filled Murray State Universitys William Cherry Agriculture Expo Center for Construction Career Day September 18.

The annual event was created through a partnership with the Associated General Contractors of Western Kentucky and MSU in 2011 to fill a need to have a regional career event in western Kentucky, and targets primarily junior and seniors in high school vocational programs that have an interest in skilled trade areas.

Now in its fourth year, student attendance and company vendor participation for the annual event has nearly doubled and continues to build awareness and interest in construction and other technical industries and to promote educational and training opportunities, said Gina Winchester, MSU executive director for the office of regional outreach.

We started the first year with about 30 or 40 vendors and about 500 students, Winchester said. Now we have grown to over 60 vendors and they just keep growing year. We have over 1500 students coming in today from all over the region, not just our vocational schools but from some middle schools as well as homeschools.

The event is also helping to fill another need for businesses. There is a huge shortage nationwide, and also here in our region that were starting to feel where our contractors are not finding qualified workers, said Chris Nelson, executive director for AGC of Western Kentucky. So were trying to introduce these young people to some great opportunities in construction careers; basically what you see here is a workforce development initiative for our region; its opening their eyes to the wide variety of careers out there.

West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) faculty, staff and students have participated in the event each year providing demonstration booths for programs such as welding, construction and diesel technologies and computerized manufacturing and machining. MSU representatives were also on hand to help students learn about the universitys technical program offerings.

Construction technology student Ryan Steele of McCracken County helped students learn about proper construction techniques and talked about the technical programs available at WKCTC. We tell these students that West Kentucky is probably the greatest place to go because when you get there its all open; its all tailored to what you need and what you want to do. There are countless opportunities, said 21 year-old Steele. And this event in particular gives a wider view of what you can accomplish or what you can go into. It just opens their eyes to all the other possibilities they have and the wide demand there really is for these kind of professions out in the world.

Dr. Barbara Veazey, WKCTC president, and Dr. Robert Davies, MSU president, were impressed with the event turnout and the learning opportunities for the students.

The parking lot is full of buses from all surrounding areas; they are seeing first-hand what they can get if they go into industrial maintenance, engineering technology, welding, or carpentry; the jobs are out there for them, said Dr. Veazey. Weve got to get students introduced, but we also need to get them the skills they need for the jobs. So this is a wonderful hands-on experience day.

Dr. Davies agreed. The hands-on approach is so very, very important. It really allows the students to think about where they could be going on in the future, going to West Kentucky Community and Technical College or coming to Murray State, Dr. Davies said. They really see what they are doing now can really apply to long range plans and goals, and that's what it's all about.

Dr. Veazey said companies are now looking more to apprenticeship programs as students finish the programs with knowledge, but they also have hands-on experience working directly with the industry. Thats the way education is going and we have to advocate that and be a partner, said Dr. Veazey. And the partnership that I think is seen with Murray State University and Dr. Davies working with our faculty and students and our talking with Murray State about developing a more seamless transfer of our technical programs is vital to this community as well.

This year AGC of Western Kentucky, a regional organization that serves 24 counties in western Kentucky, has established two new initiatives. The organization has secured sponsorships for four $500 scholarships that will be offered this spring for students in the technical areas. The company also collected resumes from seniors in various areas of interest at the Construction Career Day and will post on the AGC of Western Kentucky Web site for employers to review at agcwky.org.

For more information about AGC of Western Kentucky, contact Chris Nelson at (270) 744-6261. For more information about WKCTC technical programs, contact Stephanie Milliken, WKCTC applied technologies program coordinator at (270) 534-3394, stephanie.milliken@kctcs.edu.