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Labor-Management Education Committee – Lee Graham, Fall 2023

Labor-Management Education Committee – Lee Graham, Fall 2023

With summer rapidly coming to an end and the fall season right around the corner, we would like to quickly recap a few great things we have been a part of over the last few months.

The 5th Annual American Cancer Society Big Dig was hosted at the Operating Engineers 324 Construction Career Center in Howell on July 15th. Nearly 500 children of all ages enjoyed a hands-on and immersive introduction to the construction industry and science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Children operated heavy equipment with the help of skilled volunteers and took part in construction-themed crafts, demonstrations, and activities in the name of a good cause. Money raised at the Big Dig went to support the American Cancer Society’s work in pediatric cancer research. With amazing supporters and industry partners, $150,000 was raised in the fight against childhood cancer! With the charitable monies raised, awareness was given to the event and the organization to showcase their mission – Construction vs Cancer.  The smiles on the faces of the many participants were priceless, and OE324 was honored to host such an amazing event.

On July 29-30, Operating Engineers 324 sponsored and participated in the Gus Macker Basketball Tournament in Flint in support of the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village (SBEV). At the SBEV, their mission is to cultivate leadership capacity. This wonderful program offers free year-round programming to youth ages 5-17 in the Flint, MI area. Programs offered include Academics, Athletics, and the Arts which are taught by local professionals who dedicate their time to reinvesting their skills and knowledge and giving back to the young people in the community. Youth can choose from the following: music, art, media, health & wellness, sports, performing arts education, teen club, and science & technology.

Recently, 22 juniors and seniors from Detroit high schools – Cody, Pershing, Osborn, Randolph, and Chandler Park Academy, graduated in the seventh cohort of the Detroit Workforce of the Future (DWF). This 16-week program provides the students with exposure, skills, and work experience that prepare them for a registered apprenticeship in the construction industry. Each graduate received a tool bag and all the tools in the tool bag were donated by the employers and trades. The Detroit Employment Solutions Corp. (DESC) donated work boots, hard hats, safety glasses, vests, and other equipment that allows students to participate in the program.

Like all successful talent development programs, DWF depends on collaboration between education, workforce development, and employers. Programs such as DWF are an important part of exposing and preparing high school students for making decisions about their postsecondary education and career choices. Even if the takeaway is that a particular career is not for them, students learn about the importance of safety, teamwork, being drug-free, being engaged, giving back to the community, and connecting with resources for career development.

This year’s partnering employers include Ajax Paving Industries, Angelo Iafrate Construction, Barton Malow, Blaze Construction, Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, Bridging North America Gordie Howe Bridge Project, Cadillac Asphalt, Stoneco, Carhartt, Detroit Employment Solutions Corp., Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, IBEW Local 58, Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates, Michigan Aggregates Associations, Michigan Construction, and UA Plumbers Local 98. The 16-week training was conducted by LiUNA Training of Michigan, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights & Operating Engineers 324 at the Operating Engineers 324 Stationary Engineer Career Center where students completed their OSHA 30 certification and met for training all summer.

On August 13th & 14th, Michigan Apprenticeship Steering Committee (MASCI) partnered with Executive Director Mike Smith with the Upper Peninsula Construction Council (UPCC) to host the annual MASCI Industry Reception and MASCI Membership Meeting. Special guests in attendance included Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) Director Susan Corbin, Helmets to Hardhats Michigan State Director Sam Dougherty, Michigan Department of Education and Office of Career & Technical Education Director Dr. Brian Pyles, and Michigan State AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute Executive Director Chong-Anna Canfora. At the MASCI Industry Reception, we were joined by 22 women from Project Accelerate! that were recognized for their completion of the program.

This year, OE324 was able to participate once again with the Upper Peninsula Construction Council (UPCC) Building Trades Summer Camp. The UPCC with signatory contractors and trades, Delta-Schoolcraft ISD and UP Michigan Works! were able to hold a paid six-week summer camp for 29 incoming high school (freshmen through seniors) from the Marquette area to take part in construction activities. The camp ran from July 10th through August 16th.  Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered celebratory remarks to the graduates of this year’s UPCC Summer Camp. The camp allowed the students the opportunity to learn invaluable skills to help them jumpstart their career or future training/education after graduating high school.

This summer, Operating Engineers 324 was given the opportunity to partner with the Great Lakes Super Sprints racing organization. This sponsorship allowed us to spread the word to race fans, pit crew members, and anyone else that stopped by to learn more about various career opportunities that exist as a Heavy Equipment Technician or a Heavy Equipment Operator. The event was a great success that resulted in excellent recognition of our organization.

These great efforts help encourage the Operating Engineers of tomorrow and let communities know all the work we are doing daily – to Build; to Maintain; to Operate; and to give back. Have a great fall season and stay safe!

Lee Graham


Executive Director, Labor-Management Education Committee