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Attracting the Next Generation of Construction Workers: New Hampshire Construction Career Days Returns in September

New Hampshire Construction Career Days (NHCCD) will be taking place once again on Thursday, September 26th and Friday, September 27th at the Hillsborough County Youth Center in New Boston, New Hampshire. 2023’s event hosted nearly 1,500 students, pushing the total number of students served to over 14,000 since the 2009 inaugural event. These high schoolers represent the next generation of the workforce. The exposure to the construction industry at these events is not only crucial to workforce development, but also valuable to the companies and agencies seeking new recruits.
Empowering Tomorrow's Workforce
Construction Career Day events are workforce development tools that introduce high school students to the transportation construction industry and support the pipeline that will provide the professionals of tomorrow. This event increases career awareness through hands-on experience with heavy equipment, welding, small tools, plumbing, electrical wiring, carpentry, surveying, bridge construction, underground utilities, and other construction-related jobs.

“The NHCCD event is a unique experience for students to explore many different types of construction occupations,” said Larry Major of Pike Industries, past President and current Chair of the New Hampshire Good Roads Association committee on Workforce Initiatives. “Union and non-union construction professionals are available to discuss their typical day and what attracted them into the industry. Students are also encouraged to participate in a variety of hands-on activities throughout the venue.

“As someone who chose a career in the construction industry, I find it exciting and rewarding to engage with young people who are considering construction as a career. The construction industry offers good jobs with exceptional room for advancement. By their very nature, these jobs will never be offshored.

“Modern society and culture are dependent upon a strong construction industry. Technology and new challenges of our ‘built environment’ require skilled workers with a passion for building and maintaining the structures we use every day. Although students often ask how much money they can make, they also enjoy discussing the importance of construction products and services globally, nationally, and for the local communities in which they live.”

Robin Wood, Human Resources Director at Reed & Reed, Inc. and current President of the Maine chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), said, “Participating in the NHCCD event confirmed to us at Reed & Reed that there are a lot of students interested in the trades. As an industry, we know that with the workforce shortage, it is up to us to create the next generation of construction workers.

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“NHCCD opened our eyes to the potential career paths we could share with the students by providing them a hands-on experience. We were astounded at the level of participation and excitement among the students. The vast array of vendors provided experiences from operating equipment, to welding or building a shed, to applying for college. They went full circle and were all encompassing.

“The impact on the participants, including the smiles on faces and positive comments everywhere, you could see the wheels spinning as they tried various hands-on tasks. Some definite career choices were made here, and many others are now thinking about construction as a future career path.

“It was after participating in the experience of the NHCCD events, we knew the importance of making this opportunity available to students here in Maine. From that, NAWIC Maine, with the assistance of Catherine Schoenenberger, ran with it and launched our inaugural Maine Construction Career Days (MCCD). ... We served over 650 students in the one half-day event. It was extremely well received by students and even more so by the construction professionals who participated.”

MCCD will be held October 3, 2024, in West Bath, Maine. For more information on the event, contact mccd@nawicmaine.org.

Exploring Pathways in Construction
NHCCD brings together a diverse range of construction professionals from both public and private firms, union and open shops, small businesses, and multi-million-dollar companies. This gathering includes tradespeople, heavy equipment operators, engineers, and laborers, along with representation from secondary educational institutions and apprenticeship programs. “It is all of construction represented in one location for a couple of days, and we — the professionals — are all asking the same question, ‘How can we get the younger generation to consider construction as a viable career path?’” said Catherine Schoenenberger, Founder and President of NHCCD. “The simplistic answer is through events like this.”

Exhibitors are already strategizing on what they can offer at their booth to engage the students in 2024. Through a post-event survey, exhibitors requested a plan for better traffic flow through all the buildings. This feedback keeps the event fine-tuned and relevant. First-time exhibitors, especially, are sharing their ideas for better hands-on activities, better competitions, and better enticements for the students to engage in the experience of their exhibit this September.

“These events thoroughly engage the students, absolutely,” Schoenenberger said. “However, these events also re-ignite the individual passion for the industry in our professionals. The pros get to share their experiences, their paths, their ‘his’ or ‘her’-story of how they arrived to where they stand/work today. It’s quite powerful for all.”

Meghan Theriault, Public Works Director in Gilford, New Hampshire, and an NHCCD Director, said, “As has been reported so many, many times, the construction and transportation industry are in dire need of next generation employees for these critical jobs due to the loss of retired skilled laborers. NHCCD strives to assist students with finding meaningful careers that they can enjoy, experience personal growth, and earn a great salary after a hard day’s work, often while wearing jeans, boots, and a hardhat. Because of my involvement with NHCCD, I continue to be inspired by the passion so many others share for this industry and am grateful for their time and commitment each year in creating a safe, exciting, and engaging space for construction career exploration.”

“Students get to ask questions and then listen to the professional in front of them describe their pathway to a career in construction,” said Eric Gustafson, Assistant Town Engineer in Goffstown, New Hampshire, and an NHCCD Director. “Some students who attend the event may talk to an engineer and move on to a college degree and a desk job. Other students may talk to an excavator operator — and actually operate the equipment — and choose a seat in a piece of equipment as their path. Each student leaves the NHCCD event with a unique take away and new perspective on what their own successful career path may look like. There are opportunities for exploration; without those opportunities, some will probably never even consider a dream career could be found in our industry.”

From 2009 through 2023, approximately 14,000 New Hampshire students have participated in these events. At the core, NHCCD events promote hands-on activities, safety, diversity, partnerships, teamwork, continuous improvement, and follow up for all of the students participating.

To become an exhibitor, sponsor, or volunteer at NHCCD, contact Schoenenberger at StaySafeTraffic@gmail.com. For more information on the event, go to nhccd.weebly.com.

2023 Event by the Numbers
  • 1,442 students
  • 15 percent female students
  • 6 percent minority students
  • 60 different New Hampshire high school programs
  • 95 hands-on exhibitors
  • 32 pieces of live heavy equipment
  • 14 pieces static heavy equipment
  • 309 daily exhibitor representatives
  • 45 daily volunteers
  • 179 chaperones
New Hampshire Construction Career Days Snapshot
  • Established 2009, 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation
  • Founder: Catherine Schoenenberger
  • Directors: Meghan Theriault and Eric Gustafson
  • Coordinator: Sarah Whearty
  • Since inception, approximately 14,000 New Hampshire high school students served
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