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Trade jobs on the rise, new facilities aim to train West Michigan talent

Posted at 6:28 AM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 09:29:43-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Local trade schools say trade jobs are not only in high demand, but are also paying extremely well right out of high school.

To help aid in the growing number of jobs and the growing number of shortages in these fields, a new educational opportunity is coming to Grand Rapids. The West Michigan Construction Institute is a school strictly dedicated to teaching young adults all about trades.

"We will teach a variety of trades right here in Grand Rapids so that we can prepare the next generation of makers, creators and problem solvers in the commercial construction industry," West Michigan Construction Institute President Jen Schottke said.

The campus will open up at the end of 2021 and will aim to teach all types of trade skills in construction, carpentry, electrical and much more. Skills that Schottke says are in extremely high demand.

"48% of our trade professionals are going to retire in the next 15 years, that is roughly half of our population of trades workforce," she said.

The school will train students for certifications and offer apprenticeships in collaboration with local colleges where students will be able to work and study at the same time. It's a different take on the typical four-year college experience.

"People are looking at four-year institutions differently, it costs a lot of money to get a degree. And a lot of people are sometimes in debt. Because of that, the four-year, or the two-year options, or the trade school options, they're almost half the costs if that," Innovation Central High School principal Dr. Jason McGhee said.

McGhee says his high school, part of Grand Rapids Public Schools, is training the future trades experts and future problem solvers of our generation.

As more people retire out of trades and with COVID-19 changing families' financial plans, McGhee says his high school is the perfect place for students to start brainstorming about career options and possibly follow that path to a higher institution like the West Michigan Construction Institute post-graduation.

"You can go either to college, or there's these post-secondary options that leads towards trade schools that will get you a job right out of high school and right into the field of your choice," McGhee said.

The path to success is not always linear and with COVID-19 driving a different type of workforce to the forefront, a career in trades may be the best career path for many young students.