Hundreds explore construction trades at career expo
Detroit — Hundreds of job seekers interested in the construction trades came to Cobo Center Wednesday to learn about the industry.
The Ready. Set. Build! construction careers expo is in response to a building boom in downtown Detroit and Wayne County. Detroit real estate developer Bedrock, along with construction firms Barton Malow Company and Turner Construction, hosted the event.
“The city of Detroit is developing and transforming in front of our very eyes,” Bedrock CEO Bill Emerson said during an opening ceremony for the expo. “A growing workforce is absolutely critical to its success and we want to help provide the resources and the access to real life opportunities as the construction of Bedrock developments continue to move forward.”
Upcoming projects includes Bedrock’s $1 billion redevelopment of the Hudson's site, the $533 million Wayne County Criminal Justice Center and the $830 million Monroe Blocks development, all part of billionaire Dan Gilbert's efforts in the city.
“The great news is after you’re done with these projects and put these things on your resume, everybody’s going to want you because they are going to be some of the most modernized, most technologically advanced buildings, that people are going to want that skill set,” said Khalil Rahal, assistant county executive for Wayne County.
Rahal said there are numerous projects in the county such as the redevelopment of the former McLouth Steel Corp. site in Trenton and Ford Motor Co.'s work on its Dearborn campus, as well as the Detroit Region Aerotropolis Development Corp.'s draw of investment and businesses to vacant land near Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus.
“Trust me when I tell you there is still a lot of opportunity to do construction in Wayne County,” he said.
In the past, contractors have had difficulties in fulfilling Detroit’s executive order requiring that 51 percent of hours on publicly funded construction projects be worked by Detroit residents. For example, during the construction of Little Caesars Arena, which opened last fall, an average of 25 percent of hours by skilled-trades workers were Detroit residents. Failure to meet the requirement results in fines.
“We don’t have enough people,” said Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. “That’s where you, you and you come into play. You need to be on those projects.”
Hopeful applicants at the expo ranged from those with no experience to those ready for employment.
Pay for apprentices starting out in the industry earn $12 to $15 an hour while they learn. After, graduation, workers make $28 to $36 an hour, plus health care and retirement benefits.
“There are plenty of careers that are waiting for each one of you to make that good money legally,” Jones said.
The potential for an increase in pay is what drew Detroiter Christopher Hatcher, 25, to the expo. “I like that because I need that,” said Hatcher, who currently works in security at Eastern Market.
There were 13 trades represented during the expo, including electrical, sheet metal, iron workers and cement masons.
Hatcher said there were numerous trades that interested him, including cement work. He spent about 20 minutes participating in a live demonstration.
“I’m just hoping I get one of these jobs,” he said. “I know I will.”
Lincoln Park resident Samantha Kellogg, 32, said the expo couldn't have come at a better time. Her previous job as a first-year apprentice doing scaffolding work for Marathon ended two weeks ago.
Her interest now is in concrete work.
“Every building needs a foundation,” Kellogg said. “It could be residential. You could do roads, bridges. You’d be steady-working.”