Sparking student interest in skilled trades


All across the state companies are looking for skilled trade workers and an effort is being made to find people to fill all those open jobs.

There’s a push to get more students involved in skilled trades. Wednesday and Thursday was the 12th annual Michigan Construction Career Days which brought together thousands of students at the Operating Engineers 324 facility.

Each year this event continues to grow. It’s open to middle and high school students across the state and it’s giving thousands of kids hands on experience and building interest in this line of work.

Student T’aires Hall said, “It’s cool, some of this stuff I never saw before.”

11th grade student Armando Castanon said, “It was very fun, it was an eye opening type of deal.”

There were about 3,800 students who participated in the event.

John Hartwell is the spokesperson for 324 Operation Engineers. He said, “With Michigan’s failing infrastructure, crumbling infrastructure right now there are jobs available, through the roads, through the underground, whatever the situation may be there’s work to do here in Michigan. We want to make sure we have the trained workforce here in Michigan to do the work.”

Students were given hands on experience with the goal of sparking and keeping their interest in skilled trades.

Logan Miller is a 10th grade student and said, “Just sitting there thinking about it, looking online and stuff you don’t really get the same interaction as you do here. You get the hands on, you get the point of view from other people that have actually done the job and it’s nice.”

There’s also an opportunity for the students to become an apprentice.

“Truly there’s no cost to the applicant when they come in,” Hartwell said. “It’s like getting a full ride scholarship and the knowledge you would gain through apprenticeship is what sets you on your path for your career.” 

A path Governor Gretchen Whitmer is in favor of.

“For the governor to be able to come our and support the trades and to support this route of entry into a career, it’s huge,” Hartwell said.

“To come out here, to see it, to be a part of it, to operate one of these machines, I think it is incredibly important to our economy,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “More importantly, making sure everyone has a path to something they’re going to enjoy and can make a good living doing.” 

A living that doesn’t require a college degree.

“People talk about college as like, that’s the only good way you can have a good lifestyle and make a good living and make this amount of money and what not,” said 11th grade student Armando Castanon. “There are different types of jobs that you can actually do.”

The Operating Engineers Apprenticeship application opens on June 10th. For more information about the program and requirements click here.

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