For kids who love building new creations with Legos or like working with their hands more than they like sitting at a desk, a construction career might be a good fit. Here are four ways high school or college students can get a closer look at what it’s like to work in heavy construction, which is, in general, the building of roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
1. Consider a summer internship. Many construction companies have an internship program or will create an intern spot for a student who’s interested in working in the field. Students can earn great summer money while seeing what the day-to-day job is all about. The Kansas Contractors Association (KCA) also offers a $1,000 stipend to its scholarship recipients who intern at a heavy construction company – on top of the scholarship and on top of what the company pays its interns. Learn more.
2. Take an online career assessment. It’s important to enjoy what you do and to do what comes naturally to you. If you could spend your day doing something you enjoy and it didn’t matter whether you were paid for it, what would it be? There are hundreds of online assessment tools to help you figure out what kind of career you might enjoy doing. Here are a couple free ones to try: The U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net Interest Profiler is an online tool where you rate different tasks on how much you would like or dislike doing them. Career Explorer is similar. You answer questions on tasks you might like or dislike, then you rate the career options they suggest.
3. Interview a local contractor. Like most industries, contractors are interested in encouraging our next workforce. Arrange for your child or student to sit down with a local contractor to interview them about their experience in heavy construction. Some starter questions might include:
- Why did you choose a construction career?
- What do you like about your job?
- What’s been difficult about it?
- What does a typical day on the job look like?
- What kind of pay range and benefits should someone entering the construction industry expect?
- What kind of education is needed?
HirePaths' stories of Kansans working in the construction industry are another great way to read real-world stories.
4. Do some homework. While many construction jobs do not require a formal degree and instead offer on-the-job training, some positions — like design, engineering and project management — may require a degree. Check the Kansas Degree Stats interactive online tool to see what a construction program degree costs at any Kansas technical, community or four-year college, and also learn what real graduates are earning with their degrees.
From designing bridges to running heavy machinery on a highway project, there are so many different careers in the road construction, water infrastructure and utility infrastructure sectors. If one path doesn’t feel like the right fit, spend some time trying out another one. And, remember this: No matter which college or career path you may start out on, it’s never too late to change the road you’re on.
Michael White is the executive director of the Kansas Contractors Association.