OKEMOS, MI – As national exposure to shortages in the skilled trades continues to make news, students of Gaylord Community Schools will now begin bridging the gap, thanks to a state grant obtained through the efforts of the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association (MITA) and other industry partners.
The $85,000 grant will help start a heavy equipment mechanic and operator class in Gaylord High School. Funding comes from the nearly $900,000 in Michigan Industry Cluster Approach 2.0 (MICA 2.0) grants recently awarded by Workforce Development within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to help develop and launch employer-led collaboratives in a variety of industries across the state. In addition to MITA, employers, educators, and trade associations* helped make the grant a reality.
“Bringing educators and employers together will help us solve our talent shortage in construction,” Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio said. “Every Michigander deserves a pathway to a good-paying job. This grant is great news for families, our businesses, and our economy.”
MITA member firm M & M Excavating of Gaylord will play a vital role in identifying and hiring eligible candidates to provide a pathway from the classroom directly into a career in the heavy construction industry, said Ken Bertolini, MITA’s director of workforce development.
“MITA is proud to have industry partners, such as M & M Excavating, who support vocational technical programs as centers of learning and catalysts of community change,” Bertolini said. “They serve as vital spaces where students can connect with our industry and begin a fulfilling career in construction.”
Brandie Meisner, M & M’s chief financial officer, said that to further bolster the classroom efforts within the Gaylord Community School District, during the winter months M & M will offer mentorship opportunities pairing students with expert equipment operators, jobsite foremen and heavy equipment mechanics.
“When construction season commences,” Meisner said, “M & M will invite capable students onto approved jobsites to provide them day-in-the-life experiences with their mentors. We will also incorporate work-ready candidates into our on-going corporate development program.”
Brian Pearson, superintendent of Gaylord Community Schools, said it is encouraging that students are already enrolling in the program.
“This is a three year grant, but after that period of time we will still offer the heavy equipment mechanic and operator class that teaches skills that are applicable in the real world of construction,” Pearson said. “Already, we have nearly a dozen students involved in class, which has a maximum capacity of 30 students, and we just received the grant.”
MITA is a statewide construction trade association of more than 500 Michigan companies that represent construction disciplines such as road and bridge, excavation, sewer and water, utility, railroad and specialty construction throughout Michigan. For more information, visit thinkmita.org.
The following organizations played a vital role in obtaining the grant.
AIS Training Center
Gaylord Community Schools
Harbor Springs Excavating
Michigan Aggregates Association
Michigan Concrete Association
M & M Excavating
Michigan Works! Northeast Consortium
Payne & Dolan