Missouri trade school gets $32M boost for larger facility

Missouri trade school gets $32M boost for larger facility

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A trade school facility in Kansas City, Missouri, is looking to expand its footprint, improve its location and better serve its students.

The Northland Career Center, first founded in 1980, was designed to offer a trade school route to about 3,500 high school students across Platte and Clay counties. But the number of students has since ballooned to over 18,000, said Brian Noller, director of community, school and business partnerships for Platte County’s school district.

As a result, the career center, which offers courses in construction tech, HVAC, welding and other specializations, had to turn students away, Noller said. 

That presented an opportunity, however, to construct a new, state-of-the-art facility in a location closer to more students.

“We saw the need to do something centralized,” Noller said. Platte and Clay counties make up the northern part of Kansas City. A new campus and facility would make it easier on students to commute to the school, and increase the number of available spots from about 460 to over 900.

“Ultimately what we’re trying to do is help our area of the Kansas City metro here build a workforce,” NCC director Jeff Green told Construction Dive.

Plans for the new facility include a 250- to 300-seat auditorium for guest speakers and a large expo space for students to collaborate on a build or to host a building competition. The larger structures could allow NCC to expand its construction offerings to include more trades, like electrical and plumbing, Noller said. 

Supporting the big price tag

A new trade school isn’t cheap, however. With a total price tag of $60 million, NCC got a major boost from the government: Gov. Mike Parson earmarked $30 million of the state budget to aid in funding the project. 

That means half the cost must come from donations or grants. 

On Jan. 4, NCC announced its first major private contribution: Kansas City-based real estate developer Hunt Midwest pledged 10 cents for each square foot of a seprate project; the KCI Logistics Park project. That amounts to another to $2 million, which means a total of $32 million is now allocated toward the job.

The huge number of industries relocating or expanding in Kansas City today already puts a strain on the number of skilled workers here,” said Mike Bell, senior vice president at Hunt Midwest, in an interview with Construction Dive. “It’s imperative that all of us … invest now in workforce development so that our young people are in a position to succeed tomorrow in the stable, high-paying careers these industries will bring.”

The timeline is set for the students to step foot on the new campus in 2026. Green said he was “optimistic” the school would meet its goal on time.

Green said the best thing contractors can do when they feel the pinch of the labor shortage is partner with schools like NCC to directly develop the emerging workforce. At a minimum, Green said, offer time to come to the school for events to advise students. 

That said, the high demand for labor has really shown Green how dire a situation it is right now. Employers are reaching out to him much more frequently, looking to hire people.

“In my time in education, that’s a first,” he said.

Correction: This story has been updated to better reflect the calculation behind Hunt Midwest’s donation.

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