Skilled trades center will provide well-trained workers

If you’ve taken a look around Marquette County lately, you’ll have likely noticed the amount of construction going on. Behind all that construction are people employed in all sorts of different trades, which are not only an important part of our economy, but also a good way to make a living.

There was some big news coming out of Negaunee Township this past week, as a groundbreaking ceremony was held Wednesday for a state-of-the-art skilled trades training center, which will replace an existing one along Division Street in Marquette.

As far as we can tell, that’s good news all across the board, from the future students who will learn a number of valuable skills at the new facility, straight up to the state of Michigan itself.

State leaders have, for some time now, publicly noted a need for more skilled laborers, and this facility will help to address that shortage.

About 100 community leaders, union officials, contractors and representatives of local organizations gathered Wednesday at the site of the new training center along U.S. 41. The $6 million to $7 million, 30,000-square-foot facility is being funded by the Michigan Statewide Carpenters and Millwrights Joint Apprenticeship and Training Fund, which offers four-year apprenticeships at seven locations in Michigan.

“This project symbolizes an area that we are working hard on in the state, which is to bring back our skilled trades training and increase the number of people going into the skilled trades,” state Rep. Sara Cambensy said in a recent Journal article. “We know right now we have at least 100,000 jobs statewide that are not filled, and a training center like this — we’ve got them downstate, we don’t have one in the U.P., so this will help with the job shortage.”

The new training facility will include specially designed indoor areas for carpenters and millwrights to gain real-world experience, allowing union members to practice skills that are used to build everything from single-family homes to medical centers, bridges and schools. The center will also contain areas for woodshop training and welding booths to help members hone specialized skills.

Pure Michigan Talent Connect’s website, at www.mitalent.org, has a projection through 2024 for professional skilled trades jobs, many of which are expected to grow by double digit percentages.

In 2014, carpentry was one of the larger professions listed, at slightly more than 21,000 workers. But that was still projected to grow by more than 1,500 jobs, or 7.2 percent, by 2024. Four years ago, there were only about 2,900 millwrights in Michigan. But that profession was projected to grow by 20.1 percent, or about 590 jobs, according to the website.

The median wage for a carpenter was listed at $20.41, while a millwright was $31.83.

Mike Jackson is the executive secretary-treasurer for the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights. He said in the Journal story that he hopes the construction of the facility will help his organization get its core message out to Upper Peninsula workers.

“If there is a young person that is looking for a career path and this fits them, they really need to reach out because this is a great opportunity to make a very good living, have a pension and health care, and it looks like work is going to be very steady for a long time to come,” Jackson said.

These are good-paying jobs that people can live on, and the new training facility will help connect people to those positions. Not only will the facility provide people with the education and experience they need to move on in their industries, but it will also improve the state of Michigan’s position of being ready for growth and development well into the future.

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