The huge turnout for the National Institute for Construction Excellence (NICE) Fifth Annual Awards proves momentum is building behind efforts to attract young people to careers in construction and skilled trades.

Hundreds packed the Imperial Ballroom at the Marriott Muehlebach in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri to recognize achievements by educators, programs, and projects that encourage our youth to take an interest in the construction industry.

Nearly 800 people attended the 2019 NICE Awards Luncheon.

“It’s exciting to see so much support growing for NICE,” said Executive Director Greg Lever. “Thanks to our sponsors, we’ve been able to steadily increase our student outreach and activities over the past six years. The money, time and talent local companies are contributing to the effort are really making a difference.”

NICE Executive Director Greg Lever opened the ceremony.

The National Institute for Construction Excellence (NICE) creates and organizes construction education opportunities and programs for middle and high school students, their parents, their schools, and their teachers. Immersive, project-based, industry-supported programs begin at the sixth grade level and continue through senior year.

In 2018, NICE engaged 69 schools across 41 school districts in Missouri and Kansas. Lever said more kids have been getting involved in NICE’s middle school curriculum, Crayons to CAD, and events targeting high school seniors have nearly tripled in recent years. More high school students are visiting apprenticeship training centers for an up-close look at career opportunities, and NICE will soon sponsor an in-school OSHA-10 training program.

“When high school students earn OSHA-10 credit, it will send a message to future employers that these students are serious about their future,” said Lever. “Students will also benefit from the expansion of the iBuild Showcase that directly exposes them to a variety of construction-related fields.”

Our 2019 NICE awards program introduced a brand new award to honor the educators behind the programs, doing whatever it takes to facilitate meaningful construction and skilled trades classes.

The NICE Partner in Construction Educator Award recognized two special teachers whose actions have inspired and guided students toward careers in construction and skilled trades. They were each given a custom engraved shovel and a check for $1,000.

Partner in Construction Educator Award recipient, Jim Oliver,
Construction Trades Instructor, Herndon Career Center
Partner in Construction Educator Award recipient, Scott Hughes,
Building Trades Instructor, Turner High School

“This new award not only acknowledges the value of career programs in schools, but it recognizes the individual teachers behind all the workforce efforts. They are the ones who create the value for kids,” said NICE Advisory Board Member Nate Zier from Herndon Career Center

NICE Advisory Board Member Nate Zier from Herndon Career Center 

Turner Construction’s “HardHat in Hand” program was the presenting sponsor and plans to expose more students to construction careers by offering them the opportunity to earn safety and readiness certifications in a short amount of time.

Turner Construction’s HardHat in Hand program was a presenting sponsor.

NICE board member and Turner Construction Vice President, Mark Iammarino, emphasized the need for more industry movers and shakers to embrace programs like HardHat in Hand and NICE.

“We need to engage local building owners, contractors, trade partners and community colleges and encourage them, and work with them, to offer programs that prepare tomorrow’s workforce, said Iammarino.

NICE Board member and Turner Vice President Mark Iammarino

“I challenge you to take action in delivering our HardHat in Hand solution, or forming your own. Collectively as an industry, we must work hard to bring more people into the construction workforce.”

Iammarino introduced the keynote discussion with Facebook‘s Community Development Coordinator, Eryn Mercer-Niehues, and Turner Construction’s Senior VP of Global Critical Facilities, Ben Kaplan. He said the two companies are partnering to counter the enormous talent shortage both are experiencing in information technology, engineering and construction.

MARC Workforce Development Director Anita Davis moderated the keynote discussion.

“Facebook’s footprint is really growing and we have an opportunity to help strengthen construction and related partnerships,” said Mercer-Niehues. “We want to work with partners like Turner Construction and the Hardhat in Hand program to help innovate the search for talent in non-traditional ways.”

Eryn Mercer-Niehues, Community Development Coordinator, Facebook

“Turner has always been interested in making a difference in the community through our work.” said Kaplan. “It’s just one reason we’re collaborating with Facebook. Facebook shares our interest in filling the gap between the skilled workforce and the need. By working together to fill that gap, we’ll impact individuals and families, and ultimately the communities we serve.”

Ben Kaplan, Senior Vice President Global Critical Facilities, Turner Construction

Mercer-Niehues said connecting the construction community and technology is a collective effort that’s sustainable and can help both individuals and businesses in the industry.

“I would encourage everyone here to think of the workforce challenge as a community challenge, not a construction industry challenge. Everyone has a role in coming together to solve the problems we share. Facebook is part of that community. We’re learning too and welcome your participation.”

“We, in the construction industry, have to share,” said Kaplan. “There’s nothing proprietary about a program like Hardhat in Hand. We want to share everything we’ve learned because developing the workforce is an ‘all industry’ challenge. We’re all in this together.”

Construction Global Critical Facilities Senior Vice President Ben Kaplan

The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) has been doing just that… working to bring industry and education groups together to solve workforce challenges.

MARC recently published a Skilled Trades Labor Analysis in Kansas City through their Talent-to-Industry Exchange (TIE). TIE groups analyze the workforce of local industries and then use the data they gather to create strategies for growing the region’s talent pool. Their efforts earned them a 2019 NICE Construction Education Award!

Event Emcee and Fox4KC News Anchor Dhomonique Ricks, Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) Research Director Frank Lenk, and NICE Board member and Builders’ Association Workforce and Professional Development Director Dr. Richard Bruce
The NICE Construction Education Award went to the Mid-America Regional Council.

The Kansas City region specializes in two industries that employ substantial numbers of workers in construction and skilled trades — transportation and warehousing. Both industries are also prone to expansions, which often means local construction workers will be needed to build new facilities and surrounding infrastructure.

As a leader in connecting development, construction, manufacturing and supply chain companies, ThinkViral was proud to recognize the KC Streetcar as one of the area’s large-scale transportation users of local construction services.

“Tom Gerend, the Executive Director of the KC Streetcar Authority, understands the relationship between investing in the expansion of the KC Streetcar and the positive impact that will have on Kansas City’s future economy,” said Anne Cull, President of ThinkViral.

Anne Cull, NICE Board Member and President of ThinkViral

“His leadership has engineered the strategic success of the Streetcar, and the result has, and will continue to be, ongoing construction and skilled trades jobs for many people in the Kansas City area.”

Efforts to use local construction resources to develop the Streetcar system earned Tom Gerend and the KC Streetcar the 2019 NICE Construction User Award!

Dhomonique Ricks, Tom Gerend and Anne Cull

“Team is everything,” said Gerend. “The KC Streetcar is on track because of everyone who is pulling together to deliver the vision. When we work together, we are stronger, and there’s no telling what we can accomplish.”

The 2019 NICE Construction User Award went to KC Streetcar Executive Director Tom Gerend.
Anne Cull, ThinkViral and Tom Gerend, KC Streetcar

Kissick Construction actually built the first KC Streetcar stop and boarding platform at 16th & Main Streets in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri. They are also responsible for many relocations and improvements of public utilities as part of the new Streetcar infrastructure.

Lloyd James “Jim” Kissick III, was the president and co-founder of Kissick Construction. His passion, hard work, honesty and loyalty helped transform Kissick Construction from a small construction firm with modest roots into a $100 million company with more than 400 employees. Jim passed away suddenly in December 2018, leaving a big hole in the hearts of all who knew him.

The Friend of Construction Award went to local construction hero Jim Kissick.

“Jim was a friend to many in this room,” said NICE board member Bridget Fahey of J.M. Fahey Construction. “Who could imagine such an energetic, charismatic individual could be taken so suddenly. He was an exceptional contractor, and an even more exceptional human being.”  

Bridget Fahey, NICE board member and Office Manager at J.M. Fahey Construction

The 2019 Friend of Construction Award recognized the late Jim Kissick, whose friendship was cherished by so many. Jim’s sons, Lloyd and David Kissick, accepted the award on behalf of their father.

Lloyd and David Kissick accepted the honor for their father, Jim Kissick.

“Dad forced us to work in construction,” said David Kissick, giving the audience a chuckle. “He wanted us to learn everything about the business and what it takes to work hard to put food on the table. He taught us the value of hard work, integrity in the work, and how to help build up our communities.”

Dhomonique Ricks, Lloyd and David Kissick, Bridget Fahey
Standing ovation for Jim Kissick as his sons take the stage to accept the award

Jim Kissick will always serve as a shining symbol of the construction industry’s commitment to our future workforce, from a lifelong commitment to the schools he attended, to demolishing dangerous housing, to creating more opportunities for young people interested in construction and skilled trades.

Jim was never afraid to tackle a challenging project and he never met a good cause he wasn’t willing to help. He was also a wonderful supporter of careers in construction and the National Institute for Construction Excellence!

You can help fund NICE work too by planning ahead to sponsor next year’s Annual Awards Luncheon on October 27, 2020!

Learn more about how your organization can get involved with NICE!

View NICE Corporate Sponsor List