Exploring Careers

The front parking lot at the former Towne Square Mall property looked like a large and diverse construction site Wednesday afternoon.

The Green River Building Industry Association hosted its annual Construction Career Day. About 40 association members set up hands-on exhibits that ranged from spraying insulation to masonry work to operating a small bulldozer to laying tile — and about every other construction-related trade — for the 400 to 500 area high school students who came to learn about careers available to them after graduation.

“They’re learning there are jobs out there they didn’t know about,” said Adam Hicks, executive director of the GRBIA. “When you’re 17, 18 years old and you’re about to graduate high school, there is a lot of pressure on you to know what your future is going to be. And I think if your only option is a four-year degree or flipping burgers, this is where that middle is. There’s jobs where you can make money immediately out of high school.

“You can learn a trade and in a couple of years you’re making really, really good money. That’s where all of these business owners started. They were 18, learning a trade, and 10 years later they own their own company.”

Hicks said the membership also benefits from the event, with them getting to interact with potential future employees, which could lead down the road to them joining an industry that is in real need of more workers.

“There are plenty of jobs available in all of the trades,” said Matt Purcell with Owensboro Insulators, who was giving students the opportunity to dress in protective covering and utilize the tools of the trade. “We’re just bringing an awareness. They’re not going to take away from this today that they want to be spray foam people or insulation people, but their eyes are opened to those opportunities out there.

“It gets the conversation started, and hopefully they go home and talk to their families and say this is what I learned today. Hopefully that sparks something in them they haven’t thought of before. We’re hoping to create that spark.”

Jordan Camp, president of the GRBIA, was representing Building by Wayne Baker and Disaster Team at the event. He said the push to increase the number of students seeking higher education has negatively impacted the industry.

“In this current landscape, we’re struggling to get the youngest generation into construction,” he said. “There’s been so much push, for so many years, for the education, going on to college and getting that four-year degree, that kids didn’t believe they could make a successful career out of going into a trade. But it’s getting to where with the abundance of people coming out with college degrees, you can actually make a better career for yourself in the vocations.

“People are paying higher wages than ever because you can’t find the people. A lot of people in the construction industry see this opportunity to encourage kids to try the professions in construction who may not be suited for a college education.”

Students from all of the high schools in Daviess County, as well as students from Hancock County and Ohio County high schools attended.

Daviess County High School students Aubrey Koller and Emiley Wimsatt learned about the event through FFA. Wimsatt said she plans to attend college, but Koller said she’s ready to get to work.

“I’m interested in this type of career path,” Koller said. “The tractors and stuff have (caught my attention) because I’ve always lived on a farm, so I’ll probably go into the agriculture side of it.”

Owensboro High School senior Kado Kizer he enjoyed learning about the different careers.

“It’s pretty nice and I enjoy it, I like the experience; I like them showing people new things,” said Kizer, who plans to be a welder. “This is a good experience not only for me, but my fellow students.”

Purcell said getting the word out about opportunities in the construction industry is important for students to understand they can achieve their career goals in the field.

“We’re just bringing awareness to the youth and high school-age students that there are good opportunities in the construction industry,” Purcell said. “I think for a long time, people have pushed everybody to go to these while-collar jobs to make more money and have more opportunity. But there’s a lot of opportunity (in trades). People are easily making six figures now in the construction industry and in the trades.

“We’re trying to introduce them to opportunities and let them know that if you’re willing to get a little bit dirty and get to work, you can have a good career and a good life.”