All Posts, Press Release

Operating Engineers 324 celebrates Detroit high school graduates of groundbreaking construction program

Operating Engineers 324 celebrates Detroit high school graduates of groundbreaking construction program

DETROIT – Operating Engineers 324 hosted family, friends and students as well as workers and businesses in the skilled trades industry in celebrating high school students who graduated from a 16-week pre-apprenticeship program.

Now in its fourth year, the Detroit Workforce of the Future Pre-Apprenticeship program graduated 13 students after a rigorous curriculum that brought science, engineering, technology and math education out of the classroom and into the real world of construction work. Immediately after the event, several graduates went to work for companies that are partnering in the program, such as Angelo Iafrate Construction and Gayanga Construction.

“Operating Engineers 324 and our partners in the skilled trades sector are extremely proud of these hardworking young men and women because we know the education, training and work ethic they learned during the pre-apprenticeship program will serve them well as they pursue careers in the skilled trades,” said Lee Graham, Operating Engineers 324 Labor Management Education Committee Director. “Operating Engineers 324 is excited to be part of the Workforce of the Future program and showcase how rewarding and lucrative a career in construction can be. We look forward to continuing our work helping build Michigan’s future as well as growing the workforce our state will need for our critical infrastructure.”

The goal of the program is to:

  • Qualify students as employable and able to commit to a registered apprentice program beginning in 2020 in the construction and labor industry.
  • Give hands-on knowledge and experience to students with participating construction companies by highlighting skilled professional trades and safety training.
  • Coordinate the efforts of employers, schools, unions and industry associations to close the talent skills gap and break industry stereotypes.

Featuring speakers Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and State Sen. Adam Hollier of Detroit’s Second District, the graduation ceremony was held at OE324 Stationary Education Center in Detroit and streamed online on Aug. 20. The graduating class of 11th– and 12th-grade students from Osborn, Cody and Pershing high schools in Detroit spent the 16-week program focusing on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training and industry essentials education for 10 weeks, while six weeks were spent on paid work experience.

During the program, the students shadowed professional operating engineers working on real-world projects, such as concrete and paving at Detroit Metro Airport, and construction at the FCA Jefferson construction site. The students also put their new skills to work on a community volunteer project that included clearing weeds and brush, building bus stop benches, painting fire hydrants and performing other tasks.

This year, the pre-apprenticeship program took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, students and instructors were extra vigilant, with increased safety measures that included masks, distance learning via the Internet, and social distancing during in-person settings.

In addition to OE324, the Workforce of the Future program includes the Michigan Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, and Michigan Laborers Training Apprenticeship Institute, as well as 10 union employers and four construction associations, collaborating to carve a new pathway for students to go beyond Career Training Education. Other critical partners in the coalition are Jobs for Michigan Graduates and community groups. The program started in 2017 with just one employer, one school and six students.

“These open-minded companies, sometimes direct competitors, are working together to teach a Detroit student cohort, the next generation of the workforce, by providing real, actionable and interactive knowledge about working in construction and that’s simply phenomenal in terms of partnership for the greater good,” Graham said. “The students in this program are terrific, coming in with knowledge and interest in pre-apprenticeship in construction, staying on a track to graduate from high school and a positive outlook on their future.”