KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The shortage of skilled workers is a big problem facing Missouri, Kansas and really the entire country.
The North Kansas City School District hopes its participation in the Kansas City Construction Career Academy can help close the gap.
About 35 high school students are building a 1,000-square-foot smart home — which will feature energy saving technology such as LED lights, energy efficient appliances and solar panels — as part of the program.
Students in the KC Construction Career Academy, which is in conjunction with Metropolitan Community College along with KC-based construction giant J.E. Dunn and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, used an architect's blueprints to construct the home from the ground up.
Instructor Je'Anne Rueckert said they students gain valuable hands-on experience in the trade industry through such projects.
"This program gives students the ability to come in, learn some extremely valuable skills in a lot of different trades, and then they can go out into the field with tools in hand and be able to get a job and take places for those that wish to retire," Rueckert said.
Rueckert said the trade industry is facing a worker shortage due to a growing age gap that has been developing during the last decade.
"There was a time when four-year degrees were pushed very heavily — and there's nothing wrong with those, they bring very good, highly paid positions," Rueckert said.
But construction and remodeling companies across the U.S. are now desperate to recruit and retain young workers.
According to the latest report by the Mid-America Regional Council, most of the demand for skilled trade workers in the Kansas City area over the next five years is replacement demand. The report said roughly half of the construction, installation and maintenance workforce needs to be replaced during that that time frame.span.
Rueckert hopes young adults who like to work with their hands will realize the industry has changed a lot in recent years.
"Mom and dad didn't want their kids to have to work as hard as they did," Rueckert said. "They wanted their kids to get good degrees and get easy jobs that didn't hurt their bodies. ... Now they can go into those physical jobs with so much more help and aid and everything that we do, so that they can stay into the trade longer instead of it being a short 20-year career for them."
The students' work will be on display March 13-15 at the Greater Kansas City Home Show, which will take place inside the Kansas City Convention Center's Bartle Hall. The public will be able to walk through and engage with an interactive smart home while learning how to automate their own homes.
The project is made possible through partnerships with the Greater Kansas City Home Builders Association, Samsung and Metropolitan Community College.