Congressional group promotes skilled trades

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News
Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich, left, and Rep. French Hill, R-Ark, tour DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital's trauma room with Rhonda Colding, ER RN, Nurse Educator. (Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)

Detroit – -- Yes it is Halloween but that’s not why two members of Congress were dressed in hospital scrubs today.

Their goal was a lot more important than fetching candy.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich, and Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., toured DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital to promote skilled trades.

The duo are part of a bipartisan congressional group that see trades such as electricians and plumbers as the answer to a two-pronged problem. It would allow people who don’t go to college to make good money, and fill jobs sorely needed by industry.

“We talk about bringing manufacturing back,” said Lawrence. “But how do you do that without a skilled work force.”

Among those skilled trades are jobs at hospitals, which don’t run on doctors alone, she said.

And that’s why Lawrence and Hill, founding members of the Congressional Investment in America’s Skilled Workforce Caucus, were dressed as lab techs at Sinai-Grace.

They oversaw a CAT scan for a patient, peering at a computer screen as Bridget Goodman went through the machine.

Administering the scan was exactly the type of person Lawrence and Hill were looking for.

Mike Hamilton, a radiologic technologist, went from one well-paying job to another, both without the benefit of college.

He worked in construction for 16 years before being layed off. The father of three was immediately able to begin training as an xray technician, he said.

“I was looking to get into something more stable,” he said.

In just three years, he moved up from a staff technician to his current job.

That’s the type of thing Lawrence and Hill would like to see more of.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich, right, and Rep. French Hill, R-Ark, wear hospital scrubs as they watch DMC Cat Scan Tech Shasca Barrett-Stevens prepare patient Bridget Burton-Goodman for a scan at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital.

To make it happen, they would like secondary schools to do a better job of pushing skilled trades, said Hill.

College is a fine choice but it isn’t the only option, he said.

“We want to show young people there’s a different path,” said Hill.

The caucus, which formed earlier this year, is still in the early stages, learning about the best ways to attract and train skilled tradesmen.

During their hospital visit, the two members of Congress quizzed various workers about their training and how they ended up at Sinai-Grace.

Lawrence asked Brenda Wimbley, a patient care clerk, how someone would be able to get their job.

“Could someone just walk in the door and get it?” asked the congresswoman.

“Oh, no,” said Wimbley. “No one would be that good.”

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Twitter: @francisXdonnell