ABC/WMC launching West Michigan Construction Institute

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The West Michigan Construction Institute is designed to be a hub for talent recruitment, development and placement for the West Michigan commercial construction industry. Courtesy WMCI

The Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter (ABC/WMC) is launching a new trade education center to fill the talent gap in construction.

ABC/WMC is launching the West Michigan Construction Institute (WMCI), a trade education center focused on developing the skilled construction professionals workforce in Grand Rapids to help fill a growing talent gap and ensure the industry’s long-term stability and growth.

The West Michigan construction industry is projected to grow almost 16% over the next 10 years, while at the same time, nearly 48% of today’s construction workforce is expected to retire within the next 15 years. The decline in skilled labor has resulted in West Michigan companies losing projects to understaffing and severely increased construction costs.

WMCI will have daytime high school programming coordinated with and through area high schools and communitywide training programs. WMCI evening classes will be focused on apprentices and upskilling those already employed in the industry.

The new training center fills a shared need across the industry for more skilled trades workers to complete construction projects in various categories, as well as serves as an entry for employees to work in the commercial construction industry. The institute is designed to be a hub for talent recruitment, development and placement for the West Michigan commercial construction industry.

“The workforce pipeline is drying up, and the need for more trade education programs is growing, but existing programs are not,” said Jen Schottke, WMCI president and former vice president of operations for ABC/WMC. “WMCI offers the education needed to advance in a trades career where services are in demand, with the job security that comes with it.”

The program will be based in a new facility underway at 801 Century Ave. SW, south of Franklin and just west of US-131. The building contractor on the facility is Dan Vos Construction, and the project is expected to be completed in December. The building will feature classrooms, a construction lab and meeting rooms, and it also will house the ABC/WMC offices.

Student registration for the WMCI begins in late fall, and classes are slated to begin in January 2022.

“Students today want meaningful, well-paying careers that allow them to live their lives and contribute to their communities,” Schottke said. “The institute will provide hands-on trades education that allows students to develop their hands and their minds.”

WMCI students can enroll in programs including construction core, carpentry, electrical, interior finishes and plumbing, as well as pursue certifications or professional development in additional specialties such as becoming a Building Industry Consulting Services International (BICSI) certified technician or copper installer. The length of each program ranges from weeklong certification trainings to multi-year apprenticeship and craft training programs.

The electrical program is a partnership with Grand Rapids Community College, which will move its more than 400 students currently enrolled in electrical apprenticeships to the WMCI facility beginning in January.

“Partnerships build stronger communities,” said GRCC President Bill Pink. “Our college has been partnering to prepare individuals for careers in the construction trades for decades, and the West Michigan Construction Institute is a perfect example of employers and educators collaborating to create opportunities for residents to be successful. Together, we will create a talented workforce ready for rewarding careers and help our West Michigan economy thrive.”

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