The city's west side will soon be home to a $30 million facility that will provide free skilled trades training for up to 1,500 students per year — and they'll earn wages and benefits while they learn.
The Michigan Statewide Carpenters and Millwrights Joint Apprenticeship and Training Fund joined with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan at an afternoon news conference to unveil plans for the 120,000 square foot training center that's expected to break ground early next year.
The center will be constructed on a seven-acre parcel of city-owned land near Oakman Boulevard at the site of the former Tappan School. The center is expected to be completed by mid-2021, officials said.
"The reality is that men and women of color have not felt welcome in a range of trades," Duggan said during a news conference inside Straight Gate International Church on Grand River.
The mayor stressed the timing is critical with the cost of construction rising and a skilled trades shortage in Michigan as developments including a new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plant, Hudson's project and Gordie Howe International Bridge ramp up in Detroit.
"If there is one thing that can derail the speed of Detroit's recovery, it's the cost of construction. It is becoming a real problem for us," Duggan said. "We've got enough work for the next five or 10 years. We need to be training Detroiters to do it."
The carpenters intend to consolidate administrative and training operations, which currently are spread across Warren, Ferndale, Livonia and the Renaissance Center, under one roof once the building is complete.
The Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights and its contractor partners fund all aspects of the apprenticeship program, including construction of the new center.
Chemical Bank, which recently announced plans for a new headquarters in Detroit, will work with the union to finance the construction project, officials said.
"This will be the largest investment we've ever made in Michigan," said Mike Jackson, the regional council's executive secretary, on Monday.
The program, he said, will help thousands of Detroit residents get access to state-of-the-art training for careers in the skilled trades and get paid while they learn.
Jackson said first-year apprentices earn about $16 an hour, plus benefits. Journeymen earn about $55 per hour.
Two years ago, the council of carpenters became one of the first skilled trades unions to sign on to the Mayor's Skilled Trades Employment Program.
The group, the state's largest skilled trades union, committed at that time to tripling the number of city residents in its membership over the next decade. During that time, the union has committed to growing its city-based membership from 283 to 849, officials said.
To meet the goal, the regional council will ensure that 25 percent of all first-year carpenter apprentices are Detroiters.
Students of the new facility will train in an apprenticeship program designed and taught by the carpenters and millwrights union, which currently has more than 14,000 members across the state.
Enrollment is free and participants also will earn wages, healthcare and pension benefits.
Skilled trades professionals account for more than 500,000 jobs in Michigan and professionals anticipate that an existing worker shortage in the fields will continue into the next decade.
“There’s incredible demand for skilled workers throughout our state, especially here in Detroit, and local contractors want to hire skilled local workers,” said Donna Pardonnet, executive director of Architectural and Construction Trades Michigan and chair of the Training Fund.
Detroit resident John Perkins Jr. said he is a fourth-year apprentice at the union's Ferndale center.
Perkins, who will be a commercial carpenter when he completes the course, said he's been doing carpentry with his father since he was a child and stumbled upon the carpenters to get the free training.
He's worked on the Shinola site and Little Caesars Arena project in Detroit.
"Getting paid to go to school, it's phenomenal," he said. "You can't get that anywhere else."