Construction is our nation’s largest single industry and is a massive part of our everyday lives. The home you live in, the stores where you shop and the building where you work are all made available through construction labor.
However, construction is not limited to those who hammer down floorboards or put up drywall. The construction industry is vast in opportunities for those interested in learning a trade, from electricity to HVAC, refrigeration and plumbing. If you are someone who works well with others and enjoys problem-solving and exploring different locations, construction might be an excellent fit for you.
According to Building-Kentucky.com, the average Kentucky construction worker earns around $50,000 a year with more than 77,000 positions throughout the state. Meaning, once someone becomes qualified in this career path, it is relatively easy to secure a job that meets their needs.
I teach air conditioning technology at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College. I entered the field in my 20s when a friend needed an extra hand at his small business. I enjoyed the work, but that partnership eventually closed as I married and started a family. I spent the next several years working in a factory. When the factory closed, I felt that I reached a dead end and didn’t know what I would do next. Then I remembered an earlier job that I always enjoyed – working air conditioning service.
I then chose to go to school and earned my associate degree in air conditioning technology. Although an associate degree is not required, I knew that it would open up more opportunities.
I was middle-aged and attending college for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and to be honest, I was shocked by how helpful everyone was. Most of my instructors were around my age and offered friendship as well as training. It was evident throughout my coursework at ECTC that my instructors truly cared about my success.
Upon graduating from the program, I signed on with a contractor installing AC units in new homes. It was a great exercise in teamwork as I worked alongside people in all factions of construction and we learned to share space and respect each other’s processes.
I have to say, though, my preferred career path within AC is service. I love walking into a home knowing there is a problem and using critical thinking skills to find a solution. After all this time, I still face new challenges but have the experience and skills to work through different possibilities and reach a resolution.
Another fun thing about working on the service side of construction, whether in AC, refrigeration, plumbing, etc., is that you meet so many different people and see so many homes. It is always interesting to see how people live and has made for some pretty funny stories on occasion.
I now teach full-time at ECTC, although I still do some service work for friends and family. What I love about teaching is watching my students grow and find success in the classroom and outside of it. I had follow-up calls recently with last year’s students and found three-fourths of them were making at least $20 an hour in their current position.
Living in this community, I often see students around town who stop me and tell me about a new purchase they were able to make or the new home they bought for their family because of the employment they found upon graduating.
If you or someone you know would be interested in construction, ECTC offers electrical technology, air conditioning technology and industrial maintenance technology programs. We provide friendly instruction, comprehensive programming and, as instructors, we have connections with leading companies in the field, many of whom come to us when seeking new employees.
You also could attend ECTC tuition-free with the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship, which covers the cost of training for in-demand careers in the construction industry.
If you want to dip your toes in before going to school or if you have previously worked in the industry and are seeking to dive back in, the Kentucky Career Center-Lincoln Trail can help. KCC-LT provides job-hunting services, resume workshops and mock interviews to help you find the perfect career. To learn more, go to ltcareercenter.org.
Glenn Raizor is an air conditioning technology instructor at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.