Gillette News Record, Joy Lewis, Associated Press
GILLETTE, Wyo. — The concrete that Powder River Construction project manager Lance Walker and his crews are standing in is fast-acting.
In no time, the kiln shelter will have a permanent place to stand on at the AVA Community Arts Center.
The project offers a similar kind of permanence for the builders — a concrete place the men are looking for within the construction industry.
That's why the Northeastern Wyoming Young Contractors was created. It's an organization to help young construction workers find their niche within an often older man's profession.
"Our biggest goal is to introduce younger crowds into construction and construction-related industries," the 22-year-old Walker said. "Right now, with the retirement of baby boomers, that's the biggest concern. In the construction field, there isn't anyone there to take those positions, whether it be skilled positions, labor positions, any positions. There's a shortage on the whole."
Walker and seven other men, ages 22 to 28, created the group with a mission: to show young minds that the multi-faceted construction industry is full of opportunities.
"The biggest misconception that we are striving to break down is the fact that many people think the construction industry is the catchall (industry), that if you can't amount to anything else, you fall into the construction industry," said group founder Kenny McKillop of DRM. "But a lot of very respected people come from the industry, and you can make a really good living in construction."
The group formed about four months ago after the former president of the Wyoming Contractors Association approached McKillop with an interest in a Cheyenne Chapter of young contractors. A southeastern Wyoming association was created.
Shortly after, McKillop decided that having a chapter in Gillette would better serve the community, he said.
The association still is in its infancy, but the group has some big plans.
It hopes to get involved with college and high school students to teach them the ropes of the construction industry, ICM estimator Bryson Gambrel said.
That includes showing young workers the many positions within the industry, Walker said.
If a person wants to work in the fields, there's an opportunity. If a person wants to work in an office or in management, there are opportunities for that, too, Walker said.
"You can find a position that suits you here," Walker said.
"You're not going to be on the end of a shovel for the rest of your life unless you choose to do so," McKillop added.
The group plans to get involved with high school students next semester. It wants to get students involved in small projects around the school, Walker said.
One goal on the minds of the young associates is to give away a scholarship to students pursuing a technical education, whether it be in estimating or construction management or other areas of the construction industry.
Details of the scholarship requirements still are to be hammered out, but the group has gotten a head start on fundraising for the scholarship.
It hopes to give away a $1,000 scholarship.
The project at AVA is part of the fundraising.
The members donated their services to create a 14-by 22-foot kiln foundation. In exchange, they will accept any donations from those who want to help build the scholarship fund.
They have about $400 in their scholarship fund now, but hope to get more, Walker said.
It's all about making opportunities for young workers, Walker added.
"Everything that you want to do in the construction industry, we will have something for you," Walker said.
Information from: The Gillette News Record - Gillette, http://www.gillettenewsrecord.com
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