The Fair Face Of KC3

By David Huey | September 28, 2010

"Worker shortage" is becoming a common phrase across America. As the Baby Boomer generation approaches retirement, the problem will only become worse and the construction industry has already started feeling the pinch. That is why three Kansas construction associations got together to form the Kansas Construction Careers Coalition (KC3). It was created to generate interest and promote careers in the construction industry through career fairs, after-school programs and other educational channels.

KC3 is a partnership between the Kansas Contractors Association (KCA), the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Kansas and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC).

"For 10 years we have been saying the worker shortage is coming. Well, it's here and if we don't address this issue now, our country will be in a lot of trouble," said Becky Harmon of Koss Construction and KC3 chair.

Instead of just talking about it, though, KC3 decided to do something about it. They brainstormed methods to communicate the many career opportunities available today in the construction industry. One of the ideas KC3 committee members came up with was the idea of holding a Construction Learning Center at the Kansas State Fair to reach the youth of Kansas over a 10-day period. The learning center consisted of free hands-on construction related activities for kids of all ages. Activities range from building blocks for younger children, to a real excavator/backhoe operating experience for older kids, under the watchful supervision of KC3 members.

"Committee members were talking last fall about more efficient ways to reach the youth in Kansas to tell them about the high paying careers available in the construction industry and what better way than to reach the tens of thousands of kids who attend the fair," Harmon said. From highway and road construction, to the construction of retail, office space and schools, there are no signs of the construction industry slowing down. According to a survey by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), by 2012, there will be 1 million new jobs available in the construction industry, a rate of over 240,000 new jobs per year. (See sidebar for more "Worker Shortage Quick Facts.")

"A labor shortage would have a detrimental effect on the Kansas economy," said Corey Peterson, executive vice president of the AGC of Kansas. "With the expected growth in the industry, our members need workers and construction work will never be exported. Not too many industries can guarantee that," added Peterson.

Over the 10 days of the 2007 Kansas State Fair (September 7 through September 16), about 1,700 fairgoers visited the KC3 Construction Learning Center located on the fairgrounds just east of Lake Talbott, at the intersection of Lake Talbott Avenue and Ft. Leavenworth Boulevard. KC3 even sponsored one day of the fair (Thursday, September 13). The center was an open, free learning playground. Kansans of all ages participated in a variety of activities designed to perk their interest in the vocation of construction. KC3 gathered information from individuals over 18 that were looking for work or expressed an interest in the building trades. KC3 hopes that the center will become an annual fixture at the fair.

The Players

The AGC of Kansas, Inc. is a fully certified chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), representing more than 8,000 general contractors in all 50 states who are organized into some 102 local chapters. With the exception of suburban Johnson and Wyandotte counties, all of Kansas is within the sphere of responsibility of the AGC of Kansas.

KCA is the recognized leader of the heavy construction industry in the state of Kansas. Since 1923, this statewide chapter of the AGC of America has provided services to its members in such areas as legislation, governmental regulations, on-the-job training, project information, and numerous other services.

NAWIC is an international non-profit organization created in 1953 to unite for the mutual benefit of the women who are actively engaged in the various phases of the construction industry. NAWIC promotes cooperation, fellowship and a better understanding among members of the association. Since its founding, NAWIC has grown to a membership of 5,500 women with more than 179 chapters, advancing the causes of all women in construction whose careers range from business ownership to the skilled trades. With almost 900,000 women working in constructiontoday, the industry is becoming more accepting of their non-traditional roles.

For more information about career opportunities available in the construction industry, visit


KC3 Construction Industry Worker Shortage Quick Facts

  • Construction is a significant source of jobs. The industry provides jobs for 7.7 million employees — more than 5 percent of the total non-farm workforce. Even as homebuilding has declined recently, nonresidential construction employment has grown 2.6 percent from June 2006 to June 2007, nearly twice as fast as overall non-farm employment.
  • Construction jobs are good-paying jobs. In June 2007, seasonally adjusted hourly earnings in construction averaged $20.95 per hour, 21-percent higher than the average for all private industry non-supervisory workers.
  • Construction makes a disproportionately large contribution to gross domestic product (GDP). The value of construction put in place in 2006 totaled $1.2 trillion, 9 percent of GDP. Residential spending totaled $647 billion: nonresidential, $545 billion.
  • Construction is a substantial purchaser of U.S. manufactured products. In 2006, shipments of construction materials and supplies topped $500 billion — nearly 11 percent of total U.S. manufacturers' shipments. Shipments of construction machinery totaled $36 billion — 11 percent of all U.S. machinery.
  • Materials costs are a major problem. In the past three years, the producer price index for construction materials and components jumped 22 percent, more than double the 9-percent rise in the consumer price index.
  • The typical construction firm size is very small. In 2005, there were 788,000 construction establishments with 6.8 million paid employees, plus more than 2 million firms without paid employees — mainly self-employed individuals but also partnerships and holding companies. Thus, average employment was less than nine per establishment. (An establishment is a permanent business location. Most construction firms have only one establishment.) Overall, 91 percent of construction establishments had fewer than 20 employees. Only 1 percent had 100 or more.
  • Construction is a low-margin industry. Internal Revenue Service data for 2003 shows that the 676,000 corporations in construction had net incomes, less deficit, of $32 billion, or 2.8 percent of total receipts of $1.1 trillion. That was barely half of the all industry average margin of 5.5 percent.
  • Construction is a high-turnover industry in terms of entering and exiting firms. Census data prepared for the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration shows that 87,000 of 600,000 construction firms with employees in 2003 (14 percent) had no workers in 2002, while 78,000 firms closed.
  • The 2006 Construction Industry Annual Financial Survey, conducted by the Construction Financial Management Association (, included responses from 495 companies. Net earnings before income taxes in the most recent fiscal year averaged 2.4 percent. The median return on assets was 6.4 percent.