Kansas City students were given the unique opportunity on Sept. 20-21 to learn about careers in construction, plus gain hands-on experience contributing to a Target store remodel at the “I Built This!” event sponsored by ConstructReach, KAI Build and Target.
ConstructReach is a workforce development company and social enterprise founded in 2018 by CEO Paul Robinson to encourage young people from diverse backgrounds to get interested in construction careers. ConstructReach launched the “I Built This!” campaign in conjunction with Target store builds and remodels throughout the country to expose more students to construction opportunities and experiences.
“I Built This!” Kansas City was held outside the Target store at 4375 North Chouteau Trafficway. Over 150 high school students from neighboring workforce development programs and school districts (including Oak Park High School, North Kansas City High School, Winnetonka High School and Staley High School) were invited to attend.
Students participated in elements of the Target stores’ remodel related to carpentry, plumbing, fixturing, design, technology and mechanics, plus received information from industry professionals about local training programs, schools, internships and job opportunities in the construction industry. In addition to KAI Build, industry participants also included KAI sister company The UP Companies; Flooring Systems, Inc.; Russell Construction Company; and the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council.
“As construction professionals, I believe we must be looking at the future of our business,” said KAI Build Director of Operations Gyasi Haynes. “The message to our local schools and students should be, ‘you do not fall into a construction career. You choose a construction career.’ For me, choosing to be a tradesman was the best decision I made after high school, and I am passionate about sharing this with the next generation of tradesmen and women.”
Minority-owned KAI Build and UPCO are currently working with Target to remodel stores in St. Louis and Kansas City, plus remodel a distribution center in Topeka, Kansas. In addition to being a major U.S. retailer, Target is also one of the nation’s largest commercial property owners and has a strong interest in ensuring that the construction teams that build their stores are as diverse as the communities in which they serve.
KAI continues to be leaders in the industry, taking a proactive role in initiating and accomplishing diversity goals and participation in the workplace through events like “I Built This!” Quality, diversity and providing opportunities for everyone is part of the culture at KAI and is formalized in the company's policies and best practices.
“The industry desperately needs more workers, particularly now when more and more Baby Boomers are retiring from the construction industry,” said KAI Enterprises CEO Michael B. Kennedy Jr. “We have a 20-year runway where there is going to be a super high demand for what we’re teaching students right here, right now through this event. If students are passionate about construction and have some talent there, they are going to do very well in life with a career in construction. The world needs them now.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction jobs will grow faster than the average for all other occupations from 2014 to 2024. Despite the apparent abundance of construction work, skilled trades, unions and construction companies continue to struggle to find qualified workers, much less minority workers.
With more young people pursuing college degrees after high school, less are showing an interest in learning skilled trades and joining unions, opting for other jobs that typically pay less and require less skills. The construction consumer's demand for quality, competitive pricing and a diverse workforce is increasing all the time.