KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The right to send sparks flying in the Northland Community Center’s Industrial Welding program, or to learn any of the other skills the program teaches, is a hard right to secure right now.

“We have more and more kids interested in the program and we’re turning more and more away,” said Northland Career Center’s Brian Noller as he transitions from the center’s Director to its Director of Community, School, and Business Partnerships.

As the Baby Boomer generation retires, Noller said Kansas City area companies and industries are having trouble finding young workers to fill the retiree’s roles.

“It’s about us creating employees that are ready to work, that have employability skills they need to keep the job once they get it and have the entry-level skills they need to do the job, and we’re giving it to them as long as they’re willing to do the work,” said incoming NCC Director Jeff Green.

The Northland Career Center is open to students in seven school districts, covering 16 high schools, in Clay and Platte Counties. The program is free for students thanks to funds from the state and the student’s home district when they enroll in NCC’s programs.

Right now, NCC can hold about 500 students, but it’s had a $60 million plan to double its capacity and relocate farther east from its Platte City location, so it is easier to get to for Clay County students.

Visits with lawmakers resulted in $30 million from the state house for the project, leaving NCC to find supports to cover the $30 million gap.

“We knew the first shoe had to drop,” Noller said. “Someone had to make a commitment to us.”