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Carpenter's union joins effort to train Detroiters in skilled trades

Feb 8, 2017

Michigan’s largest skilled trades union has agreed to train more Detroit residents in construction work.

The Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights says three of its local units will commit to new targets.

Those include making sure that Detroiters make up at least 25% of new apprentices, and tripling their Detroit membership in the next 10 years.

Joining the city’s Skilled Trades Employment Program (STEP) “just makes a lot of sense for everybody,” said MRCCM executive secretary Mike Jackson. “We feel with the amount of work we see coming into Detroit, that those numbers are very doable.”

The move comes at a time when Detroit is seeing a development boom in some areas.

But many Detroit residents aren’t feeling the benefits from that boom. And some developers say they can’t find enough skilled Detroiters to fill jobs.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan issued an executive order that requires some contractors to hire at least 51% city residents on work sites. Some big development projects have additional agreements with higher targets.

But some developers are having trouble hitting those targets. Several have been fined for non-compliance (the city was not able to immediately provide the amount of those fines, but say they’ve collected at least $675,000 that goes back into job training programs).

But city officials say the real goal is to get the word out about these jobs, and the free job-training opportunities.

Faarook Bey is a Detroit resident, and a fourth-year apprentice floor-layer at the union-run Detroit Area Carpentry Apprentice Training School. He called the new arrangement “excellent.”

“As a part of Detroit’s resurgence, it’s great that Detroit citizens can get in on the ground floor, and be a part of this,” Bey said.

“Number one, they can feel like they are a part of it, and own a piece of it. And of course number two, they can support their families at a decent wage, and actually have a career, and not just some job that they’re working.”

But many Detroiters just aren’t aware of the jobs and training programs, and that most are entry-level where apprentices can start earning almost immediately, Bey said.

“The main thing is people’s awareness that these programs exist,” he said.