Build My Future constructs impact on local youth.

What started as a great concern over a lack of skilled workers, and an interest in the trade industry among youth, has flourished into a multi-city event that inspires the up-and-coming workforce to pursue a future in the construction industry. 

Build My Future, a one-day event that originated in Springfield, introduces high school students to a variety of construction careers. This year, 23 Build My Future events are expected to take place in 10 states. The roots of the event can be traced back to a collaboration between the Ozark Region Workforce Development Board and its local chamber of commerce in June 2014. Through a roundtable discussion, area employers expressed their worries over a lack of pipeline workers, training costs, and the lack of interest in skilled trades from the emerging workforce. The group decided to host the first Build My Future Career Expo to introduce high school students to industry career opportunities and dispel any myths that these jobs do not pay well. 

The first Build My Future targeted for Central Missouri students came to Jefferson City last fall with 43 vendors showcasing their specialties and employment opportunities to about 800 students at the Jaycees Fairgrounds. The students traveled from local and rural schools as far away as Palmyra. 

Organizers for Central Missouri’s Build My Future like Rachel Andrews are looking forward to bringing it back again on October 18 this year. Hundreds of students are expected to return to the event, which will give them insights into construction career paths like laying tile, preparing and pouring concrete, carpentry, welding, electrical and HVAC work, and more. 

At the 2021 event, Gov. Mike Parson interacted with students for most of the day and encouraged them to strongly consider some of the country’s most in-demand jobs. Since taking office in 2018, Parson has stressed the importance of workforce development for Missouri. 

Students got the chance to interact with heavy equipment operators, build tool boxes out of sheet metal, and talk to landscaping company employees cuttung grass and mulch. State Technical College of Missouri also brought its virtual trailer, giving students time to operate equipment virtually. Capital Holding Group stationed a construction crane on-site. Nichols Career Center students exhibited their welding, carpentry, and robotics skills, and road construction crews even gave students insights into road paving. 

“I think we can improve on educating the students and counselors on what to expect before showing up and what they might be interested in.”

Jason Otke

“It was great watching the kids get engaged and interacting with the vendors,” says Rachel Andrews, who was one of about 40 volunteers who helped pull off the event. “It’s just as much fun for adults. It was amazing to sit back and watch their reaction.” 

Jason Otke, president of Jefferson City-based Dick Otke Construction Company, was also an integral part of bringing Build My Future to Central Missouri. Serving on the Home Builders Association of Missouri and Central Missouri, he collaborated with a group promoting the trades industry through the Build My Future events in Springfield and Iowa and saw the potential for the event. 

“It has definitely opened my eyes to what can be done in construction.”

student, Blair Oaks High School.

“I enjoyed seeing the number of students with an interest in the trades and the opportunities it provides,” says Otke, reflecting on last year’s event. “I think we can improve on educating the students and counselors on what to expect before showing up and what they might be interested in.” 

At the end of the local Build My Future last year, students completed questionnaires to give Otke, Andrews, and the volunteers for insights into what they liked about the event and how it impacted them. One Blair Oaks High School student wrote that Build My Future was a “fun and eye-opening experience.” 

“It has definitely opened my eyes to what can be done in construction,” the student added. 

Another student wrote, “I felt like I wanted a career in carpentry, but wasn’t 100% sure. (Build My Future) has made me certain I want a job in carpentry.” 

Both Otke and Andrews are excited for the 2022 event and reaching more students through the event. 

“I think they can take away a vast knowledge of opportunities right out of high school or before that can educate and further their knowledge of the trades,” Otke says. “It is necessary for our local environment to keep and provide opportunities to them here.”