Even before housing’s boom-and-bust of the Great Recession, Kentucky builders recognized the workforce was aging and more high school students were being discouraged from entering the trades — the industry was staring down the face of a looming labor shortage. In response, the HBA of Kentucky and the BIA of Greater Louisville joined forces with other state contracting associations to form the Kentucky Construction Career Choice Council, or K4C, to launch a career fair that would show those students the great jobs available in the construction industry.
Fourteen years later, they haven’t looked back. Bob Weiss, HBAK executive vice president, recalled the very first event in which “everyone got off the buses and kind of wandered around.” The career fair quickly evolved into a welloiled machine: This past September it welcomed 3,200 high school students, three Kentucky cabinet secretaries, six state legislators and a host of other state and local officials. The fair is held at the Shelby County Fairgrounds outside of Louisville. It includes indoor exhibits for the trade associations and their member companies, and outdoor exhibits where students can try their hand at various construction stations. The participating associations pony up for the fair expenses with help from sponsoring companies. Students come in timed intervals from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. over the two days of the fair. Each busload is sent to a set of bleachers for a hard hat and an introduction to the day’s events. Outside, the students have a chance to look at construction equipment and experience a few tasks. “They’re going up and down in the high boys, laying brick, and this year they actually had a welding area right next to our booth where they could put their gear on and learn how to weld. It’s a very interactive day for them,” Weiss said.