Demand up for construction, skilled trade workers

DETROIT (AP) -- Demand for construction and skilled trade workers is growing in Michigan and apprentice programs are gearing up to help fill the need.

The increased demand is a boon to journeymen, apprentices and union officials who sweated out the last few years on unemployment or with part-time work as construction projects ground to a halt, The Detroit News reported recently.

Don Kissel, director of a Detroit-area skilled trade apprentice training program, keeps a list of out-of-work apprentices in his desk drawer at his Ferndale office. The list used to be three pages; now it barely fills three-quarters of one page.

"It's a sign people are starting to invest in the workforce," said Kissel of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights.

A comeback in commercial projects is behind the increased demand, officials said. Many projects are for businesses in education and health care. Lately, the newspaper reported, more workers are enrolling in apprentice training programs, a union requirement for new workers.

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget said the number of construction and related jobs in the state is projected to grow 6.8 percent between 2008 and 2018. Michigan has averaged 124,725 construction jobs a month through the first eight months of this year.

The manufacturing sector is even reporting a shortage of skilled trade workers, said John Challenger, chief executive at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based job outplacement consulting firm.

"They can't find people with skills in the requisite areas like welding, mechanics and machinery," Challenger said. "There's a skills mismatch."

The news is a bright spot in Michigan's struggling economy. The state'as seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 11.2 percent in August, the third-highest in the nation for the period.

Frank Craddock, 49, of Trenton, was laid off after 17 years at an auto supplier and enrolled in a multi-skilled maintenance program at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn. He worked as a millwright but now the same job requires more skills, he said.

"They want you to know more than machine repair," said Craddock, who plans to begin looking for a job at the end of the semester. "They want you to know welding and pipefitting and even electric work now."

Published: Wed, Oct 19, 2011

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