A destination for skills training

By Fran LeFort

More than 6,100 members of five national and international trade unions will travel to Ann Arbor this summer to advance their skills and knowledge. Nearly 5,000 will train at Washtenaw Community College.

Plumber and pipefitter; ironworker; roofer; plasterer and cement mason; and electrical worker union members will train with their respective trade organizations each for a week beginning June 10 through August.

The “teach the teacher” partnerships bring union members from throughout the United States and countries such as Canada, Ireland, Australia and beyond. Through a multi-year program, trainers work to enhance their skills and safety practices and then go back to teach fellow trade workers in their organizations.

Destination Ann Arbor projects a $20 million economic impact from the summer training programs, benefiting the local businesses, restaurants and economies of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.

Training kicked off this week with 120 members of the Operational Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association on campus.

The largest of the groups, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA), wraps up the summer of skilled trades training with about 3,000 union members August 10-16. An additional estimated 600 vendors and industry guests will also be on campus for support and special events.

The UA this year celebrates 70 years of its Instructor Training Program, with the past 35 years at the WCC campus.

The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union also celebrates a milestone – 40 years of instructor training, with 15 years at WCC. The college and Ironworkers – which will bring 700 members July 15-19 – last year signed an extension to continue hosting training through 2030.

Other skilled trades groups this summer include the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, with about 200 members June 24-28, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – National Electrical Contractors Association, with about 2,100 people July 29-August 2.

The electrical workers will split training between WCC and nearby Eastern Michigan University campus, with about 850 concentrated at WCC.

“There is high demand for skilled trades workers who build vibrant and safe communities for us all. We’re proud to partner with these respected organizations to strengthen training and safety practices to ensure a steady pipeline to meet talent needs,” said WCC President Rose B. Bellanca.

Union trainers typically spend a week on campus enrolled in hands-on instruction to stay ahead of the curve in cutting-edge skills and technological developments within industry. Some also return at various times throughout the year for specific training.

The groups also bring apprentices to campus for training and competitions. Additionally, union members may also enroll as WCC students to pursue a certificate or associate degree.

Many bring family members, patron local businesses and participate in other activities, benefiting Washtenaw County and beyond, according to Destination Ann Arbor, the county’s tourism marketing organization.

“We are delighted to welcome the skilled trades unions back to Washtenaw Community College and the Ann Arbor area this summer. These highly impactful training programs over the years have supported countless local jobs, businesses, and generated millions for the local economy. We look forward to welcoming them to our Washtenaw County communities this summer,” said Destination Ann Arbor President and CEO Sarah Miller.

This article was originally posted here.

Fran LeFort

is director of media relations at Washtenaw Community College in Michigan.