KANSAS CITY, Mo — Graduates from the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council (MACRC) apprenticeship program became journeymen and women on Friday night.
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The majority of those graduates are from the metropolitan area.
Their skills could help fill the need for more than 546,000 workers in the construction industry, according to Associated Builders and Contractors, a national trade group.
"Getting into the four layers in the apprenticeship program, I have a career now," said Shelby Gregory, a graduate of the program. "I installed for five years and that was awesome. My husband is an installer and now I'm a project manager. I have a career, I have a life and can only go up from here."
Gregory got to celebrate tonight with the largest apprenticeship class in the history of the program. This was the program's first time being able to recognize their graduates in 14 years.
Their youngest graduate is 17 years old.
Gregory graduated last year but wasn't able to walk across the stage.
Now she can say she is one of their success stories.
"I graduated about a year ago," Gregory said. "I went from the field, worked in the field since 2017."
With all the development in the area, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly agrees the Carpenters Union has set up the graduates so jobs won't be hard to find.
"Not one of them should have trouble finding a job," Gov. Kelly said. "There are a lot of jobs available. We got Panasonic, a $4 billion investment, at least 4,000 permanent jobs and at least 16,000 during the construction phase."
It's safe to say after 6,000 hours of learning on the job the new graduates nailed it.
"The college route might not be for everyone, but when folks go through and see what happens with their hands, that they build our communities, that sense of accomplishment will last a lifetime," said Rocky Kloth, regional director of the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council.
More than 120 graduates from Kansas City, Jefferson City, Springfield and Topeka will be in high demand. As they start this journey and rise to the challenge, they will heed some words of advice.
"If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. Show up with a good attitude, show up on time ready to work and be a part of something bigger than yourself," Kloth said.
Governor Kelly also wished the graduates success in their careers.
"Congratulations and I'm going to compliment them on their timing," she said. "They’re graduating at a time when the market is flush and they can have a job of their choosing."
Leaders of the apprenticeship program are already hoping next year they can celebrate another large class of graduates ready to enter the workforce.