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‘Apprenticeships are game-changers:’ Skilled trade industry excited about $10M grant

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Posted at 4:50 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 17:05:37-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Thursday morning, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity was awarded a $10,000,000 federal grant. She said it’ll create apprenticeships and employment opportunities for women, people of color, people with disabilities and those without a high school diploma or GED.

She said it’ll overall boost the economy and she called it a ‘game-changer.’

That was the same word Julie Parks of Grand Rapids Community College used to describe the announcement.

“Apprenticeships are game-changers for people, especially people in poverty,” said Parks, the interim dean at the School of Workforce Development. “They can change their life because most students have to work when they go to college. You work and you get paid and they pay for your tuition when you’re an apprentice.”

Parks said that GRCC has 800 apprentices at their schools getting trained in any number of fields.

“Apprenticeships, most people think ‘Oh, they’re manufacturing,’”Parks said during an interview on Thursday. “Well, sure there are manufacturing apprenticeships but there are healthcare apprenticeships. There are IT apprenticeships. There are apprenticeships to be line workers in energy fields. So there’s not any one field that can’t have an apprenticeship in it. “

Tod Sandy, director of training for Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, agreed. They have a few facilities throughout the state where they offer training in a variety of fields.

“The work that’s out there is building our infrastructure. I mean a lot of people don’t know this but carpenters build bridges,” Sandy said during a phone interview on Thursday afternoon. “We’re working on the Gordie Howe bridge as we speak, and high rise buildings, roads and anything from residential buildings to offices and churches.”

Sandy added that they’re also recruiting at the high school and middle school levels. They also have open enrollment at their facilities.

He and Parks believe that the grant could be the answer to the labor shortage so many businesses are facing. It may even help the state reach the goal of having 60 percent of adults achieving post-secondary education or skills by 2030, which Gov. Whitmer reiterated in her speech.

“It’s a win all the way around,” Parks said. “An individual gets the skills that they need. Employers get a highly qualified person and there’s no debt for a student.”