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Labor Management Education Committee – Lee Graham, Summer 2019

It has been a busy spring at Labor Management. As we are into that all-important busy season of construction in Michigan, a quick recap of the great things we are partnered with.

On May 1st and 2nd, the Operating Engineers 324 Construction Career Center in Howell hosted the 12th annual Construction Career Days, and this year proved to be the largest and most successful ever.  Over 3,000 7-12 grade students from all over the state visited the event to learn about the skilled trades, the opportunities and careers they present and, most importantly, try their hand at operating some heavy equipment!  Students, educators, and legislators, had the opportunity to talk to dozens of experts from the trades including electricians, carpenters, sheet metal workers, cement masons and others, before climbing on a bus and heading back to experience one or more of the cranes, excavators, dozers, rollers, pavers and more provided by the many contractors who loaned equipment for the occasion.  Both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor even stopped by to take in the event, as well as press from Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Grand Rapids and more.  A thank you goes out to all of the exhibitors and trades, as well as the many contractors who participated and donated equipment.  And a special thank you to all of the OE324 members and retirees who volunteered their time to help out and show the students how fun and rewarding a career as an Operator can be.  Next year will be our 13th event and, at the rate it has grown, even bigger!

Operating Engineers partnered with Michigan Construction to sponsor Truckload of Books. Over the first few weeks of May, all 700 teachers who entered the contest received one free construction-related book for their classrooms, totaling over 1,300 books across the state. 45 random winners received a big-sized truck with 14 books about construction, building, architecture and engineering that best fit their classroom’s reading level. The goal is to get more construction-related books into Michigan classrooms and in front of young readers. We are proud to provide these books to a range of Pre-K to 4th grade classrooms all over the state. We, along with the other partners, personally visited local classrooms to deliver the winning truckloads and engage with the kids as a special guest reader.

The FIRST Robotics World Championship was held at the Cobo Center and Ford Field in Detroit this April. The Operating Engineers had an amazing opportunity to showcase our state of the art autonomous Spyder Crane and educate the youth on the incredible pathways into registered apprentice. The competition is space-themed, so robots must be capable of sealing a chamber with a hatch, inserting a large dodge ball into a cylinder and climbing a step 19 inches high. With more than 17,000 students ranging between ages of 6 and 18, this is one of the world’s largest celebration of STEM for students. Include photos

We recently have been honored to partner with the American Cancer Society to help sponsor the 1st Annual Big Dig of Michigan. The Big Dig of Michigan gives children and families the opportunity to attend and operate heavy machinery, including excavators, scissor lifts, and more, while raising awareness and funds for pediatric cancer. This festive fair-like event will host a variety of hands-on activities and entertainment. Tickets are required for children aged 2—16 years old. Tickets are $10 per child and include admission to the Big Dig of Michigan event, event t-shirt, and various giveaways. For more information, please visit

The 9th Annual Construction Science Expo, held in partnership with Black Caucus Foundation and OE324 was a great success as well. On May 21st, roughly 1,000 eager students from nine participating schools that have taken a drug free pledge spent the day with industry leaders in construction and engineering and learned what it takes to become construction design or trade skill professionals. For the first time, the Construction Science Expo committee hosted an Industry Night at the Randolph Career Technical Center on June 6th for students and their families to learn more about career paths in construction and design and have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with industry professionals regarding trade skill apprenticeships.

We recently attended the 89th Annual Michigan Safety Conference in Grand Rapids.  The objective of the conference is to teach how to have a healthy and safe work environment. Workplace safety is dependent upon identifying potential hazards and then eliminating those hazards if possible. With over 2,200 plus attendees and 240 exhibitors featuring hands on demonstrations, it is one of the highest attended conferences in the nation. During the conference, Derek Sather, OE 324 apprentice coordinator instructor, and Graham Brent, CEO of NCCCO, presented on Certified Crane Operator (CCO) Updates and Bob Nash, OE 324 instructor, and Tim Maguire, Senior Safety Manager with Barton Malow, presented on Excavation Hazards.

This year, the Michigan Apprenticeship Steering Committee, Inc. (MASCI) will be holding a conference in Lansing in October – it’s first statewide conference in several years.  MASCI was initially formed in April, 1977, to act as sponsor for an anniversary banquet celebrating forty years of federal promotion of the system of apprenticeship in the United States. The Committee members determined that they should continue to provide a forum where the entire apprenticeship community could express, discuss and promote ideas for the improvement and maintenance of the registered apprenticeship system in Michigan. From those beginnings, MASCI has continued to provide dynamic leadership in assuring that our system of registered apprenticeship in Michigan will continue to rank among the best in the nation. During the twenty-six years of its existence, MASCI has sponsored nineteen statewide apprenticeship conferences in various cities around the state. This year’s conference will offer a variety of workshops, planning sessions, and presentations for Registered Apprenticeship advocates, educators and industry leaders.  Seminars concentrating on the role of technology, promotion of diversity, labor-management relations and relationships, and the value of registered apprenticeships will help strengthen and grow an already robust program to new heights.  We are looking forward to the event and the conversations and actions that will spring forth from it.

All of these efforts help encourage the Operating Engineers of tomorrow and let the community know all of the work we are doing daily – to build, to maintain, to operate, and to give back. Have a great summer and stay safe!

Lee Graham
Operating Engineers 324 Labor Management Executive Director