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Manufacturing Day 2019 in Southeast Michigan

Manufacturing is among the most technologically advanced and innovative career fields out there, and production is forecast to continue increasing over the next three decades and anchor Southeast Michigan economy. Manufacturing Day provides invaluable exposure and experiential learning to students and is one way of implementing the SEMCOG/MAC report, Future Skills: Preparing for the Changing World of Work.

Industry Night Showcases High-Paying Career Options After High School

By: Michael G. King

Communications Intern, The Prewitt Group

This year’s Construction Science Expo: Industry Night, was held at Randolph Career Technical High School to showcase the many opportunities available in construction, skilled trades, and engineering for young people and adults. Event sponsors focused on raising awareness about this industry by showing the attendees—especially students—that skilled trades are viable, well-paying careers with pathways to leadership and entrepreneurship.

L to R: D. Needham, M. Jones, K. McKinney-King, L. Graham; T to B: L. Curtis, A. Fisher, B. Osbern

L to R: D. Needham, M. Jones, K. McKinney-King, L. Graham; T to B: L. Curtis, A. Fisher, B. Osbern

Employers, and union and community representatives were on-site to discuss how to find employment in the skilled trades industry. Presenters had this to say about how their organizations are helping to fill the employment pipeline.

Doug Needham, President, Michigan Aggregates Association

“We need to figure out how to help those that struggle with the math and reading skills required. This event is a launching pad or starting point for helping to develop Michigan’s future skilled work force.”

Minou Jones, Executive Director, The Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan

“Stress and the inability to cope lead a lot of our youth to drug abuse. Our life skills and substance abuse prevention programs provide Detroit’s youth with the tools they will need to be successful in today’s job market.”

Krista McKinney-King, Principal, Randolph Career and Technical Center

“At Randolph, education goes deeper than just technical skills; we also focus on the soft skills that are necessary for lasting employment. We want to make sure that our students understand what it means to be a man or a woman working in a professional capacity.”

Lee Graham, Executive Director for Labor Management, Operating Engineers 324

“There are a lot of new construction and revitalization projects going on, but all of this progress means nothing if it doesn’t also help our communities. That’s why the Construction Science Expo is so important. It gives our youth hands-on exposure to the opportunities going on all around them. The students that attended the CSE now have a clear path to a rewarding career.”

Lindsay Curtis, MDOT Workforce Development Team

“MDOT has several programs to help our youth find the underserved need in their communities, and to find worthwhile careers in the process.”

Austin Fisher, Mining Engineer, Michigan Paving and Materials Co., Stone Co., and Cadillac Asphalt

“Stone Co. operates in 40 states and 36 countries. After you get your foot in the door, you can work pretty much anywhere. What we offer aren’t just jobs. These are careers that you can spend a lifetime working in. Your career progression is also a central concern to us. After just six months working with us, we pay for continued education and will pay off any college debts.”

Construction Science Expo 2019: Next Gen Engineers and Tradesmen

By: Michael King

Over the past eight years, the Construction Science Expo (CSE) has introduced the professional trade and engineering industries to more than 8,000 Detroit students. The event has even led some to careers where their skills will be in demand and valued. The expo is held annually at the Michigan Science Center. Sponsored by The Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan, MITA, Operating Engineers 324, and MDOT, several other organizations joined them to transform the Science Center into an exciting hands-on experience that was immersed in construction and engineering applications, exploratory exercises, and one-on-one discussions with industry leaders.

Kannon Pinkel, a third-year apprentice with the IBEW Local 58, spoke to a crowd of students about his career journey, why he loved his work and how much money he makes. “Last year, I earned $75,000,” he said. “This year, I hope to break into the six-figure bracket.”

If that was not enough to get the kids excited about the trades and engineering, the rest of the activities should have. At one station, students engaged with virtual reality, drones and augmented reality. The augmented reality goggles were the coolest part. Also known as DAQRI Smart Glasses, the goggles show an entirely artificial world overlaying your own. They are also used to show a finished construction project, well before any actual construction has occurred.

At other stations, the students worked with trowels, grout and bricks to sharpen their masonry skills, operated real and simulated construction machinery like mini-excavators and a gigantic Spydercrane, used CAD 3D software to build structurally sound bridges, and challenged union carpenters to a nail driving face-off. The expo had an abundance of interactive activities, but did it have the desired effect on the students?

Several young people said that before today, they had never considered working in the industry. However, as the day moved forward, they began to imagine themselves in these professions. Ronald W. Brenke, Executive Director of ACEC/Michigan commented, “We’re encouraging youth to explore these opportunities, especially if they enjoy problem-solving, and it’s working!”

Davion and Terrence were both Cody High School freshmen attending the event. They said that initially, they did not know what they were interested in. By the end of the day, however, both students said they were amazed by the many opportunities available.

“These students can look at the progress taking shape in their communities, and learn how they can take part in building a rewarding future at the same time,” said Lee Graham, executive director, Operating Engineers 324.

While many people still have reservations about the career opportunities in the construction industry, events like the CSE are opening students’ eyes to the rewarding possibilities in both the skilled trades and engineering professions.

Carpenter’s Career Fair Checks All the Boxes

By: Michael King

Date: April 17, 2019

Construction is booming throughout Detroit, so now is the time to seriously think about training for a career in skilled trades. Many young people are looking for options that don’t include college and years of debt and will put them on a path of career growth, opportunity, good wages, and job satisfaction. The Carpenter’s Apprenticeship Career Fair checked all the boxes.

Thirty-five contractors met with an estimated 1,100 walk-ins and 650 local high-school juniors and seniors. Everyone was interested in one thing: Closing the skills gap and adding to the employable Southeast Michigan workforce. Job seekers came from all walks of life to find out more about training programs in Skilled Trades, the Other 4-Year Degree:
  • Twenty-three-year-old Tom T. traveled 45 minutes after hearing about the fair on Facebook. He had always been interested in the trades but did not know where to begin. Without family or close friends in the trades, the career fair became his first step. “I still don’t know where I’ll end up,” he said, “but I’m sure this event will help me to narrow it down.”
  • Brandon, 18, and Nathan, 17, came as part of a class field trip. Brandon came from a family of roofing and demolitions contractors and he convinced Nathan that a career in the trades is full of opportunity. Both of them were unsure of where they would ultimately end up, but they believed that if they worked hard, they could become a foreman, a master tradesman, or a project manager. Brandon commented, “That’s when the big bucks start rolling in.” •
  • Ryan Martin is the general superintendent of Aristeo Construction. Putting the skilled trades work day into perspective, he told attendees that the days can be long or short, you have to push through the hard times with the same fervor as you do with the good times, and you can rise through the ranks relatively fast. “You can also look back proudly on what you have accomplished,” he said.
  • Also attending the career fair was James, a 39-year-old who has recently fallen on hard times. When he heard about the event on Fox 2, he knew immediately that he would be at the event. “Today, good jobs are far and few in between, but not in the trades,” he said. He added that he had been employed in the field but had not gone through a union certified training program. This made it challenging for him to find stable work.

Visit the Become An Apprentice page for more information about how you might find your career!

Endless Opportunities in Skilled Trades

By: Michael King
Communications Intern
The Prewitt Group

More than $10B in construction projects are underway in Detroit, but there’s not enough skilled workers available to fill the range of jobs available. This fact and more were shared at the Chandler Park Academy Skilled Trades Career Fair, held on March 23, 2019.

School advisor, Lavell Nero, kicked off the event, noting that career fairs like this are important to help more students get exposed to skilled trade careers, as well as community college and HBCU programs, all of which were in attendance. He then introduced the keynote speaker, Renee Prewitt of The Prewitt Group and co-chair of The Partnership of Diversity and Opportunity in Transportation. Prewitt highlighted skilled trade careers via a discussion of the top ten reasons to consider a career in the field.


#1: The Availability of Jobs
There are more jobs available than skilled workers, demand for skilled labor has never been higher.

2#: Competitive Pay
The pay aligns with that of many white-collar positions, and some actually pay better. A few starting salaries are shown below.

Skilled Trades Starting Salaries

Heavy Equipment Operator: $55,000 Machinist: $45,000
Sheet Metal Worker: $47,000 Pipefitter: $49,000
Iron Worker: $55,000 Plumber: $55,000
Electrician: $54,000 Roofer: $45,000

3#: You earn while you learn.
During training, union apprentices are paid a salary, receive benefits, and when they graduate, often have little to no educational debt.

#4: You can own your future.
If you consider yourself a driven self-starter, you can quickly become a foreman or a crew leader, and within four years, a master journeyman and/or project manager. The skills learned can even help you start your own company.

#5: College is not for everyone.
An interesting statistic from the U.S. Department of Education states that 45% of all students who start college, dropout. One size does not fit all.

#6: You will never be outsourced.
Local laborers are the life-blood of Michigan construction projects. The industry cannot simply hire foreign laborers to cut costs.

#7: Technology is a growing part of the industry.
Most people think skilled trades jobs are dirty jobs, but this is simply not the case. Technology is creating new opportunities to work better and smarter, and are requiring new skill sets of employees.

#8: Getting started couldn’t be easier.
There are a host of local, city and state programs to help you gain entry into the construction industry. has streamlined this process by providing visitors with a one-stop website for all local information on skilled trades: Apprenticeships: The Other 4-Year Degree.”

#9: You will develop a lasting work ethic.
Some skills are important wherever you go. Those at the top of the list include several “beings,” such as on time, teachable, professional, responsible, and showing initiative are taught to those who are willing to learn.

#10: Now, more than ever is the time to get started.
Demand for the revitalization of the city of Detroit has risen. The money to rebuild is coming down the pipeline. Don’t pass up the opportunity to #RebuildDetroit

Build Your Future with Ajax Career Fair

By: Michael King
Communications Intern
The Prewitt Group

The Build Your Future with Ajax career fair was held on March 8, 2019, and featured representatives from Michigan Center for Truck Safety, Laborers’ Local 1191, Operating Engineers 324, as well as AJax. Some of the industry’s newest construction technologies were displayed throughout the room. At each station passionate experts explained what they did, and how they applied the new technologies on the jobsite. This was a place where job seekers could simply show up, learn about the skilled trades industry, and apply for a job as an apprentice.

Working with New Technologies

Unlike the skilled trades of yesterday, today’s skilled trades jobs offer employees strategic career paths to earn good wages and to learn the many new technologies that are a huge part of this growing industry. These technologies better equip the work force for future success by assisting road crews to finish jobs more efficiently and to avoid costly errors.

One station at the event demonstrated how 3D mapping systems create the physical parameters of roads and guide the machines laying concrete and asphalt. At the Operating Engineers station, attendees sat at a training simulator. No scores were recorded, but I got a chance to see how apprentices learn to use computers installed in heavy equipment machinery like bulldozers and cranes.

How can job seekers get started?

When applicants come to events like Build Your Future with Ajax, the first step is to talk to men and women representatives onsite and make sure that a career in skilled trades is what you really want. After filling out an application, applicants are vetted, interviewed and may ultimately come on board for training and employment within a few weeks. Events like this help job seekers get their foot in the door as apprentices. So, if getting paid while learning, taking free courses for career advancement during employment, receiving top-notch benefit packages, and doing work that you can be proud of sounds like a good deal, then a career in the skilled trades may be the right fit for you. Earn while you learn through an apprenticeship, the other four-year degree.  To get you started, visit our website at  In addition, informational resources are provided below. 

Trade and Apprenticeship Information

Apprenticeships in Michigan: The numbers

By Naheed Huq, SEMCOG

Last month during National Apprenticeship Week, the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives (LMISI) released a new report that provides an overview of registered apprenticeships in Michigan and identifies some of the main trends impacting the future skilled trade pipeline in the state. The data will help policy makers evaluate the skilled trade labor supply, understand gaps in the workforce, and address shortages in key industries.

We are very excited to release this report on Registered Apprenticeships in Michigan. For the first time, we were able to confirm key characteristics of Michigan’s apprentices, as well as identify some of the challenges and opportunities that exist for apprenticeship programs in Michigan. This report will provide our state partners with the information they need to develop apprenticeship programs as a crucial source of workforce talent.

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Detroit’s National Apprenticeship Week Makes a Case for #BlueCollarLife

By Renee Prewitt

The second annual National Apprenticeship Week #NAW2016, made a deep dive into the Metro Detroit region recently, and helped to move the apprenticeship needle from mystery to reality for many people who have never found a pathway into skilled trades. Throughout the week—Nov 14 to 20—a series of events took place that proved to be a huge opportunity for both sides of the employment pipeline: Employers who need to fill hundreds of skilled trades jobs benefited from the creative outreach, and those who can work these jobs learned what is required to be prepared for the challenge.

It marked the progression of a beautiful relationship.

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Faced with a labor shortage, companies create their own pipeline

By Aaron Price

A few years ago, we did a gap analysis on our industry, and asked ourselves, “What will the employee pipeline look like in five years?”

Cadillac Asphalt is Michigan’s largest asphalt supplier, with the capacity to produce more than 4 million tons annually. We run seven paving crews with 200 employees during the heart of construction season. However, with the growing economy, potential road funding increases and pending retirements, Cadillac Asphalt predicts we will need to double our size by 2020. Filling the skilled trades employment gap is the biggest issue in the construction and infrastructure industries today, especially in Detroit.

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Apprenticeships: The other four-year degree!

By Naheed Huq
The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG)

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that apprenticeships seem to be the Next Big Thing?

Some may say that there is nothing new about apprenticeships. They have been around for many decades. So why are we hearing so much about them now? Well for a start, this week (November 14-20) is the second annual National Apprenticeship Week, as designated by the US. Department of Labor. Michigan businesses, governments, education, and labor organizations are celebrating big time! The Partnership for Diversity and Opportunity in Transportation (PDOT) is serving as a clearinghouse for events in Southeast Michigan and is promoting those that help raise awareness of skilled-trade careers as well as apprenticeship training and employment programs.

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