Budget provides $16 million for development of union and non-union construction trades

A state budget agreement announced last week allocates $16 million to construction training programs across the state to help address the industry’s ongoing labor issues.

Funding is split equally between non-unionized and unionized groups in the building trades: $8 million for the Builders and associated contractors of Michigan (ABC) and $8 million for the Michigan branch of International Union of North American Workers (LiUNA).

Leaders from both organizations plan to use the funding to bring more diversity to the construction trades by expanding outreach efforts and programming. Recruitment for training programs and construction jobs must “go beyond the traditional,” said Jimmy Greene, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan.

According to 2020 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10.9% of employees in the construction industry were female, while 6% were black and 2% were Asian.

“We need to market the skilled trades better,” Greene said. “We have a two to three year backlog in commercial construction projects, but we are moving as fast as we can with less staff and an aging workforce as well. We are all short of people, but we need very good people, so we will have to train and educate these people.

The United States had 402,000 construction job vacancies at the end of October 2021, the second highest level of job vacancies recorded since data collection began in December 2000, according to a report by March of McKinsey & Co..

LiUNA’s organizing process has focused on increasing the number of women in the skilled trades, said Jonathan Byrd, external affairs director for the union’s Michigan chapter, which represents about 500,000 workers nationwide. national.

“I see us continuing to expand this effort,” Byrd said. “The construction industry has generally not been an industry where many women have gone on to careers, but we are more successful than many other trades programs in recruiting women. But we can do better.”

Greene also focused on recruiting more people of color and people from the LGBTQ community, he said.

“I work hand-in-hand personally with the LGBTQ community and serve on the Great Lakes Community Pride Board,” Greene said. “We’re doing whatever it takes, but progress won’t happen overnight and part of recruiting is consistency.”

For ABC, the $8 million in state funding will help make recruiting efforts more cohesive by expanding the roles of recruiters at ABC training centers, Greene said.

“If we spend the $8 million to do the exact same thing with the same people, we know the results will be the exact same,” Greene said. “We’ll have to shake it up, and that money will give us the opportunity to do more things and try different marketing.”

ABC will also use the funding to upgrade training facilities, including the Western Michigan Building Institute opened in January 2022.

Greene said he “applauds” Governor Gretchen Whitmer for allocating money to trade groups representing both union and non-union businesses.

“I give him credit for doing this because it’s going to take all of us to fill that trade void,” Greene said.

The funding is a first for both organizations, and Greene sees it — if it proves effective — as an opportunity for future allocations.

“When you’re in someone’s budget, you have the opportunity to go back and show that it was a payback the following year,” he said. “If you do, you’ll likely stay within budget.”

LiUNA will use the funding for initiatives similar to ABC, including funding for supplies, training curriculum, equipment, and improvements to training institutes, as well as teaching costs and costs incurred during the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.

“This funding will primarily go towards training unionized construction workers for infrastructure projects related to energy infrastructure, roads, bridges and other projects that we have coming from the state and government. federal,” Byrd said. “We want to make sure we can supply enough talent to meet the need.”

The industry also has a strong need to hire more certified commercial drivers for materials that need to be moved around the state to construction sites, Byrd said.

The vast majority of LiUNA’s work is funded by its members, but additional state funds will allow it to expand the number of instructors and equipment at the organization’s four training sites in the state, Byrd said.

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