Unions opt for own training center


Classes at the Wayland training center will feature hands-on training for union carpenters and millwrights. Courtesy Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters

The Michigan Statewide Carpenters and Millwrights Joint Apprenticeship and Training Fund recently broke ground on a state-of-the-art training center to service union carpenters and millwrights in the West Michigan region.

The training fund, which represents leaders in several Michigan labor unions, will finance the $14-million project, including the $1 million purchase of the property. Schweitzer Construction out of Battle Creek will serve as the general contractor. Kalamazoo-based Byce & Associates will provide architectural services.

Kevin Klingler, organizing director for the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, said the decision to build the training center in Wayland was strategic to the area the MRCC wanted to serve.

“Wayland is very centrally located for the region that we want to service — from Ludington to the south state line,” he said. “We’re servicing approximately 20 counties with this facility.”

The center, scheduled to open in late 2018, will be located at 700 Reno Drive and will be highly visible from U.S. 131, which Klingler hopes will increase public awareness of the training center.

The building will cover approximately 70,000 square feet, 50,000 of which will be designated for training space, including classrooms, training equipment and computer labs. The center also will utilize a paperless curriculum, and certified, industry-trained instructors will lead both apprentice- and journeyman-level classes.

Classes will feature hands-on training, and apprentices will be able to work for area contractors and earn wages while in training.

“For a young person that is looking for a career, it’s a great opportunity,” Klingler said. “You can start right out of high school, and you can earn while you learn.”

Klingler said the MRCC has had an apprenticeship program since the 1940s and operates seven training centers statewide, but the new training center will meet increasing technological demands.

“The buildings are getting older, and it’s hard to keep up with technology,” Klingler said. “We can do a much better job training in a new facility.”

The training center also will partner with area contractors to better understand and respond to technological changes in the industry and alter its curriculum accordingly.

The MRCC currently has 270 apprentices in its program who will train for four years before they reach journeyman status. Klingler said that by the time the new training center opens, he predicted there will be more than 300 enrolled apprentices.

“Journeymen come back for enhancement training to make themselves more applicable, make contractors more profitable,” Klingler said.

The training center also will partner with high schools and have events for students to tour the facility and learn about career opportunities.

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