KC facing construction worker shortage ahead of potential KCI redevelopment

Posted at 8:07 PM, Oct 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-16 21:07:16-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City's National Institute for Construction Excellence (NICE) was formed in 1998 in response to a shortage of skilled laborers.

That shortage is still prevalent today, which is worrisome to those in the construction industry, especially with big projects coming up in the city.

"We started recognizing the aging workforce. Well, that's almost 20 years ago, so that aging workforce has gotten more aging," Executive Director of NICE Greg Lever said. "It's important we have the next generation stepping up to be able to design and build the environment," Lever said. 

NICE is in the middle of a big push to get more youth on board with construction jobs. 

The prospect of a new, single-terminal at KCI on the horizon means thousands of jobs. Construction companies are chomping at the bit to get more workers. 

"This is actually a great time that you can choose the trade you like," Contractor Alex Gonzalez said. 

Gonzalez said he's seeing a shortage of specialty workers as technology advances. 

"Concrete and carpentry is the most-needed right now," Gonzalez said. 

Gonzalez's company and NICE KC have put on dozens of workshops with high schoolers, to show them that construction isn't just a hammer and a nail. They could go into a variety of trades, including ironworking, floor-laying, painting, electrical work, project management, and engineering. 

Pairing potential workers with union trades almost guarantees them a job. 

"They can actually be trained, earn money on the job, and be trained as a pre-apprentice at the KCI terminal," Lever said. "And when they're done there then they go into the apprenticeship program and finish up."

The airport is the largest-scale potential development, but it certainly doesn't stop there. The Kansas City Convention Center Hotel, Cerner and the Buck O'Neil Bridge are other major opportunities to grow the workforce. 

"Construction feeds an economy, and it feeds it better if it's a local workforce," Lever said. 

NICE is holding a luncheon on October 17 with Edgemoor, the developers of a potential new terminal at KCI. They'll discuss the importance of encouraging youth to join the construction industry while hearing from youth currently working construction jobs.

The luncheon is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Imperial Ballroom in the Marriott Muehlebach Hotel.