WAYNESVILLE — Construction companies from across Western North Carolina gathered at the Haywood County Fairgrounds to showcase their services and expose the youth to career options in the industry during annual WNC Construction Career Days Oct. 15 and 16.

“The goal here is career exposure, giving someone the opportunity to sit in a piece of equipment and see how it works, maybe do it for themselves a little bit,” said Derrick Edwards, an event organizer with Mountain Area Workforce Development. “It’s hands-on experience.”

Construction equipment lined the fairgrounds fields, where operators showed groups how to use excavators, loaders, backhoes, graders, bucket trucks and other equipment, with some individuals trying the tools out for themselves.

“We’re trying to plant a seed in a young person’s mind,” Edwards said. “They may not leave here today thinking they want to do this, but maybe a few years down the road, they’re in the job market and they’ll remember.”

Hundreds of young people were invited from public high schools and job corps across Western N.C., traveling from places like Buncombe, Franklin and Transylvania County. The event was also open to the general public part of the day Oct. 15.

Even with the low unemployment rates seen in the United States, there is a considerable shortage of skill and trade workers, especially in the construction industry, Edwards said. Between baby boomers increasingly reaching retirement age, the departure of construction workers as a result of The Great Recession and fewer young people choosing skill trades, there are construction companies hiring that find it difficult to recruit, Edwards said.

“You have a tremendous shortage — plumbers, electricians, carpenters, masonry — across the board, anything you can think of,” Edwards said. “There’s a lot of real career potential here, because what’s different now is there are so many baby boomers leaving that even though there will be ups and downs again in the future, there are still a lot of jobs.”

Among the companies present at WNC Construction Career Days were the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Vannoy Construction, MB Haynes Corporation, United Rentals, HFK Concrete Pumping, Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, as well as technical and community colleges, plus home builders associations and career organizations.

The shortage of skill and trade workers in construction is amplified in rural areas, making WNC Construction Career Days even more pertinent to job-seekers in a place like Haywood County, said Linda Lamp of the Southwestern Commission, one of the event’s organizing groups.

“We’ve got a really great dynamic of people here,” Lamp said. “Our goal is to grow this every year, because there is such a tremendous need in the trade industry.”

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