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Access for All Program is Putting Detroiters to Work

1418344534107By Renee Prewitt 

Everyone is talking about it, and it’s really happening. Men and women who have never had the chance to enter the skilled trades—you know, those professions where everyone wears a hard hat and works on a construction site—are going to class and doing what it takes to become an apprentice.

Last week, 14 people graduated from Access for All, a public-private, community-union-management collaborative partnership. This apprenticeship readiness training program is preparing a new generation of workers for the union construction industry and for hundreds of new jobs that are coming Detroit’s way. Most importantly, jobs/apprenticeships are already committed or sponsored by employers before individuals are put through the training. This is AFA’s second graduating class.

“These folks have put in the time, now it’s time to go to work,” said Don O’Connell, executive director, Operating Engineers Local 324 LMEC, to the roomful of family and supporters at the graduation ceremony.

While the nine-week AFA program is non-paid, it prepares graduates to pass the tests required to become paid apprentices in a range of skilled trades, including carpentry, electrical, iron work, cement masonry, operating engineer, and laborer. Openings are available in these trades because of a projected increase in infrastructure, commercial and industrial construction in the City of Detroit, and the retirement of skilled union journeypersons born during the baby boom years. Both of these factors have created unprecedented demand for skilled union construction workers. Access for All is one of many programs that are putting Detroiters to work by providing hands on training in the skilled trades and connecting graduates to real career opportunities.

Graduate Stephen White talked about how each person looked out for the other throughout the program, and how one person inspired him to take one of the program’s requirements—being on time every day—more seriously. “One day, Lyric (Vance) came in on a skateboard,” he said of his classmate. “If she did that, I knew I could get here on time in my car.”

Congratulations to the 2014 AFA graduating class!

Warren Brown, Michael Capers, Schanna Cottrell, Donte Davis, Michelle Grigsby, Phillip Jones, Keith Lawson, Michael Richards, Rico Sandoval, Dorian Small, Theodore Spencer, Lyric Vance, Michel Vargas, and Stephen White.

For more information about the program, call 313-945-5200, Ext 4317.

The Partnership for Diversity and Opportunity in Transportation (The Partnership) consists of unions, businesses, and non-profit representatives, working collaboratively to enhance economic development within neighborhoods—which are directly impacted by major public works, and transportation construction projects—by creating community benefits, business growth, job training and other opportunities. is one of The Partnership’s programs, designed as a “one-stop shop” for information about apprenticeships, apprenticeship programs and business opportunities in the transportation sector. The name represents our goal to demystify the apprenticeship process by helping more people find their way into the apprenticeship pipeline, as well as broadening awareness of business opportunities with Michigan Department of Transportation.

We’re Not Charlie’s Angels

By Lisa Killingsworth
                        Female Construction Worker Hispanic Woman  Construction WorkerWorker
While searching for pictures of women in construction to be used in a future brochure, I began noticing that the majority of the images I found on two professional stock photo sites, showed women modeling construction, rather than women working in construction.  While these images are obviously the vision of the photographer, they revisit old stereotypes of women in construction.


These pictures depict them working in heels, wearing tight clothing and donning yellow hats and bright smiles.  In contrast, images of men in construction show them actually doing work. For example, the men are demonstrated operating machinery, giving orders and supporting other construction workers.

Yes, photographers have captured images of women in construction that are enjoyable, fabulous, and even sexy, but the real reasons why women choose to work in construction are very different.  Women join the skilled trades to make money, to feel proud of what they have accomplished, and to pursue their career interests.  Women in construction know that working in heels is not feasible. They prefer loose clothing because it’s comfortable. Photographers would do us all a service if they recognized this, and helped to distance women from the “calendar girls” that were so prevalent in the past.

The messaging should be the same for both genders. Let’s make sure that we cater to the fact that both men and women have the same goals in mind when it comes to enhancing their futures and furthering their careers.

The Partnership for Diversity and Opportunity in Transportation consists of unions, businesses, and non-profit representatives, working collaboratively to enhance economic development within neighborhoods—which are directly impacted by major public works, and transportation construction projects—by creating community benefits, business growth, job training and other opportunities. is one of our programs, designed as a “one-stop shop” for information about apprenticeships and apprenticeship readiness services.

Spotlight: Operating Engineers Local 324

By Lisa Killingsworth 

Who: Operating Engineers Local 324, a member of The Partnership for Diversity and Opportunity in Transportation

What: The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 is devoted to working with business community and policymakers to create jobs and to build a stronger future for Michigan.  Their first priority is to provide rigorous worker training, making sure that Michigan has a highly skilled workforce that can compete with other states, for the high-tech jobs of the 21st century.  They also want their members to be able to perform these jobs safely, on time and within a set budget. Second, Operating Engineers Local 324 is dedicated to fixing Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges, which will create local jobs, attract more businesses and strengthen the safety of drivers. Third, they aim to invest whole-heartedly into neighborhood schools so that kids can receive a high-quality education in a safe and clean learning environment.  Members work hard every day building, operating and maintaining the roads, bridges and buildings that Michiganders rely on. They also operate power plants, keep school buildings safe, perform critical HVAC duties and much more.

When: Founded in June, 1963.

Where: Grand Rapids, Bloomfield Township, and Marquette, MI

Why: The mission of Operating Engineers Local 324 is to watch for, and invest time into the ever-changing economic, social, political and legal challenges that face the union and to provide an enhanced level of services to its members via dedicated and loyal professionals.

The Training:
–       What does an Operating Engineer Apprentice do?
Operates and maintains hoisting and portable construction equipment, such as Bulldozers, Excavators, Scrapers, Graders, Loaders and Cranes.
–       What makes an ideal Operating Engineer Apprentice?
Someone who has keen awareness of extreme responsibility for the safety of other building tradesmen who work around the equipment, realizes the value of the expensive construction equipment and is able to make quick, sensible decisions as an operator.
–       What are the responsibilities of an Operating Engineer Apprentice?
To perform duties thoughtfully and diligently, to respect the property and the equipment of the contractor, to complete hours of related school instruction and to abide by all rules and regulations put in place by the contractor and the JATF.
–       How does someone become an Operating Engineers Apprentice?
Those interested in becoming an Operating Engineers apprentice can pick up their applications from either the Howell, Grand Rapids, Marquette, Grayling or Detroit training facilities (see ‘News & Events’ page for addresses of these locations).  Applications are available on a “first come, first serve” basis and will be available for pick-up on June 5th – June 6th, from 9:00am – 12:00pm and 2:00pm – 5:00pm.

The Partnership for Diversity and Opportunity in Transportation consists of unions, businesses, and non-profit representatives, working collaboratively to enhance economic development within neighborhoods—which are directly impacted by major public works, and transportation construction projects—by creating community benefits, business growth, job training and other opportunities. is one of our programs, designed as a “one-stop shop” for information about apprenticeships and apprenticeship readiness services.


Bridge to Entrepreneurship

By KB Stallworth, PhD.

It is no secret that “access” to significant opportunities in Road & Bridge contracting is challenging for many of our firms.  We also know that there is only so much that government can do to influence  participation in “competitive processes” that have very strict  Federal guidelines.  That being said,  Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is convinced that the path to economic stability for Detroit residents and Michigan’s minority community lies in the creation of greater access opportunities that are based on  good business practices that yield benefits to the contractors, contracted labor,  and the community where major projects occur.

Trying where possible to spend money with In-State businesses rather than Out-of –State businesses, spend with local businesses , and hire when possible from the local workforce, where the project is……..creates economic value  for everyone.

The argument  with Washington regarding our request for  more road and bridge money  based on  our “Doner State” status is not good enough alone to convince the Congress to increase our federal highway appropriation. But our argument for more funds in both Washington and Lansing is substantially improved with our ability to work together to try to make sure that every project has a local revenue , local business and local employment impact.  Having the ability to quantify the commerce and employment impact associated with projects gives the Congress and the State Legislature an ROI (return on investment) on tax dollars that when coupled with the need to repair our crumbling roads and bridges…….has great power.

This is not just good public policy….it’s good business. Govenor Rick Synder is advocating strongly for increased Michigan spends, Representative Thomas Stallworth is advocating in the Michigan legislature for “local impact metrics” associated infrastructure investment, Congressman Gary Peters  continues to press for more federal transportation funds ; and Mayor Mike Duggan is relentless in his efforts to bring all of these processes together around rebuilding Detroit and improving the S.E. Michigan economy.

It will take extra effort and “teamwork” to build trust between the DBE contracting community and the major players in the Industry.  But trust is required in every business relationship, thus the fact that it does not exist hurts our collective ability to advocate for a “larger pie”; and the larger pie is what we all need in order for everyone to eat.

We are all business people. We all want to protect  and grow our businesses. We also want relationships that will foster that growth.

Every rational stakeholder should want an economically stable and growing tax base because growth translates into more business opportunity.  Thus the delivery of a high quality, cost efficient product is essential.  It is equally essential however, that every effort is made to think about how to achieve that objective while delivering the “best value” to the community through “practical” local business, minority contract and diverse employment processes.

There will be a learning curve for us all to get there. This has to be done successfully  “without set-asides” to change the “penalty conversations” and stimulate a growing interest in “solving for x” because it makes good business sense, verses because it is a “compliance demand”. Together we can get there ….if we can “clear the board” …..”have honest no-fault exchanges”…….and figure out where the  “business matches” are that make sense.

For small contractors; available cash, equipment and surety are major impediments to growth. To address those issues……the Bridges Program will provide access to “the actual” resources needed for those contractors that are able to develop  multi-year relationships …that may or may not be directly related to a project. This is important because “people do business with whom they are comfortable”.  The “Bridges” program seeks to provide an opportunity to achieve that comfort and at the same time build capacity.  Fundamental to this is understanding the various business models out there the major players use, strengthening estimating skills, and improving access to component resources that improve competitiveness.  Much of which can occur through acquisition of a “real relationship”.

Please know that this is not just some academic exercise, I know it can work because I have lived it (

The other thing we want to make sure you understand is how to use technical support organizations like MMSDC, MBCC, MMCA to help access “vertical and diverse” business opportunities as well as networks capable providing permanent or limited (project specific) joint-venture constructs.

This last point is very important. There is no reason that minority firms cannot form “real minority-majority joint ventures” or minority-minority joint ventures……or seek equity investment from the minority community to grow their businesses or acquire others.  All of these options will be afforded via the “Bridges Programs,”  so RSVP today !   Mayor Duggan has begun to pull together public and private sector organizations that are equally determined to improve local contracting and employment opportunities in a manner that can be replicated because it makes good business sense…..and because it is a smart move that fosters economic progress.

No matter where you are in the contacting spectrum, you cannot afford to miss this meeting at the Detroit St. Regis.  RSVP today ! is one of The Partnership’s programs, designed as a “one-stop shop” for information about apprenticeships, apprenticeship readiness programs and business opportunities in the transportation sector. The name represents our goal to demystify the apprenticeship process by helping more people find their way into the apprenticeship pipeline, as well as broadening awareness of business opportunities with Michigan Department of Transportation.

34th Annual DBE and Small Business Conference: Focusing On Readiness & Opportunity

By Lisa Killingsworth & Renee Prewitt 

The Michigan Department of Transportation’s 34th Annual DBE and Small Business Conference was in full-swing from March 31 – April 1, 2014, at the Marriott Hotel, in Pontiac, Michigan.  Day One opened with remarks from MDOT’s leadership, focusing on the warming business climate in the State, and how to effectively do business with MDOT.


The Region Engineer Panel, moderated by Gregory C.
Johnson, MDOT COO, offered participants an overview
of “The Role of the Region Engineer and Why It’s Important.”


Kim Avery, MDOT Metro Region, said she wants to make
sure DBE’s have access to the people and services they need.

The morning workshops included:

  • MDOT E-Construction Initiatives: What You Need to Know to Compete for Future MDOT Contracts
  • Understanding MDOT Expectations for Consultant Proposals
  • How to Pepare and Submit a Successful Consultant Proposal.

Day Two of the conference featured a keynote address by Sundra Ryce, president and CEO of SLR Contracting & Service Company, Inc. who advised fellow DBEs not to worry about being taken advantage of, but to evaluate the long range potential of projects. She did and ended up being part of a billion dollar development in Buffalo, NY.

Breakout sessions included:

  • Innovative Contracting at MDOT
  • How to Submit a Competitive Construction Bid to MDOT
  • Who Does What on a Construction Project?


Russell Jorgenson of the Federal Highway Administration of Michigan, said, “We want to reach 9% DBE contract participation this year.”

The Conference Vendor Fair offered small businesses opportunities to discuss their products and services and how to work with other small firms  to achieve long term business objectives. An informal networking reception followed the Vendor Fair.

The conference ended with a Transit Summit that encouraged participants to imagine the future of the transportation industry, how working collaboratively can achieve these goals, and project requirements around the State.

Another Alternative for Success

By Lisa Killingsworth 


The Forbes article “The Jobs of the Future Don’t Require a College Degree,” by Pascal-Emmanuel, emphasizes the importance of apprenticeships and how they can prepare people for the future job market. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pascal-Emmanuel points out that skilled labor jobs are some of the fastest growing jobs of the future. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mechanical, insulation workers, personal and home health care aides, and brick masons and electrical helpers are just some of the occupations that are currently in high demand. Every day, apprenticeship opportunities are becoming more available, making the idea of “everyone needs college to be successful” sound more like a grand pronouncement rather than the actual truth.

This article is an interesting take on apprenticeships. The truth is, whether someone decides to either go to college or to enroll in an apprenticeship program, that person will find comfort in knowing that they have options and that they can make contributions to the world in more ways than one.


Forbes Magazine

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Apprenticeships Offer a Pathway to a Successful Career for All


Kaitlin Hoetger, Operating Engineer at Ajax Paving Industries, Inc.

By Donald O’Connell 
Apprenticeships offer pathways to successful careers that provide family-sustaining wages and benefits.  This is the reason Kaitlin Hoetger decided to become an apprentice Operating Engineer.

The Operations Manager of Ajax Paving Industries, Inc., Leo Remijan, noted that “In 2008, Ajax contacted the Operating Engineers for potential applicants for the MDOT On-the-Job Training Program.  Kaitlin was referred to Ajax at that time.  She has proven to be a dedicated hard worker, dependable, knowledgeable, willing and able to work as a valuable team member to get the job done.  Kaitlin has earned the respect and trust of her other crew members.”  He further notes, “Kaitlin is one of our talented young operators who will be the future of the company for many years to come.”

Mark Zinser, Education and Training Instructor, Operating Engineers Local 324 JATF, Inc. mentioned that Kaitlin strives to be the best operator she can be.  Mark noted, “She would not settle for just a passing score on her equipment proficiency test, she wanted the best score.”  He also said, “She went above and beyond her requirements for graduation by taking extra classes so that she was a well-rounded operator.”

Kaitlin has demonstrated that she has what it takes to be a successful Operating Engineer.  She arrives early to the job site and is prepared to begin each day with a good attitude.  She understands that the days may be long, often with travel away from home, but that has not stopped her.  She understands that the road and highway work is dangerous, which is why she always puts safety first.  She understands that a positive attitude can be contagious and that is why other crew members enjoy working with her.

Kaitlin sustains her successful career as an operating engineer while also raising a family.  In early 2012, she took a maternity leave to become a mother.  Safety Director of Ajax, Joseph Landino, stated that “Upon returning to work, not missing a beat, she picked up right where she left off.”For all of these reasons, Kaitlin was honored by the Associated General Contractors of Michigan as the Operating Engineer Apprentice of the Year at their February 14, 2014 annual meeting.

Kaitlin posted to the Operating Engineers Local 324’s Facebook page, “Thank you everyone!  The recognition is very much appreciated.  I’m proud to be a member of Local 324.”

Congratulations Kaitlin, you make us all very proud. IMG951067-1


Apprenticeships: Are You Ready?

By Lisa Killingsworth –

Apprenticeships are good programs, if you can find them, and this website is full of new information about scores of opportunities in the skilled trades. Many people see the skilled trades as new ways to earn while you learn. Others are going after apprenticeship programs in skilled trades to get into construction jobs that don’t require college degrees and where they can earn substantial dollars to support their families.  Both scenarios are true. is comprised of several people who are in the construction field, in one capacity or another. We understand that while jobs in construction declined significantly during the recession, new opportunities in construction are now on the upswing. This is true in Michigan too as construction on the I-96 corridor and the M1 Rail kicks off. A lot of people have retired in the skilled trades industries, and they need to be replaced. Employers are looking for people who are good with their hands and good at learning new skills.

While you may not need a college degree to get into an apprenticeship, many programs require you to pass several tests to qualify for them.  Don’t be dismayed. There are several programs that can prepare you to get ready for apprenticeships. We call them apprenticeship readiness programs.

 We can help with:

·       Test preparation

 ·       Refresher courses in core academic areas

 ·       Confidential drug testing

 ·       Substance abuse treatment

 ·       Supportive services such as transportation and child care assistance

So, do not delay a moment longer. Find out how you can become an apprentice and eventually, a skilled tradesman. These opportunities are open to both men and women, too!


Get Ready for Your Journey to Apprenticeship

by Brittany-Leigh Powell –

Apprenticeship programs in the skilled trades are another path to reach your life-long career goals.  Most apprenticeship programs last from three-to-four years. Within that time period, you can get hands-on training while earning a sustainable wage. Yes, you get to earn while you learn, and gain the necessary skills for a meaningful career!

Don O’Connell, Director of Labor Management, Operating Engineers Local 324, talked about the people who can benefit the most from working in the skilled trades. “If you enjoy working outdoors, changing environments and locations, working with your hands, as well as your mind, and creating visual outcomes, then the trades are for you.”

While there are many advantages to apprenticeship programs, you must not forget to prepare for what lies ahead. “Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses are not only good for college entrance, but are also important to enter the trades,” O’Connell says.

Most programs require that you take a general aptitude test, so if you are in high school, do your very best in these classes. If you are out of high school, the good news is there are apprenticeship programs that can prepare you for work readiness and apprenticeship training. They are: will keep you in the loop of all the latest developments with apprenticeship programs like these to get you started on your journey.

Leveling the Playing Field

By Tony Kratofil –

Roughly two years ago, I gathered together a group of union members, non-profit and business representatives and public sector employees to form a partnership. The intent of this partnership was something I hold near and dear to my heart; to find a way to increase the opportunity for Detroit residents to enter the ever-changing field of construction. We needed a new and improved model for workforce development that provided essential pre-apprenticeship training to unemployed adults. Furthermore, we needed a platform to allow interested individuals a clear pathway into construction skilled trades. Today, along with all members of the partnership, I couldn’t be more proud about the launch of web site. Continue reading