Opinion: Apprentices can build a future

Mike Jackson

The tradition of apprenticeship is more than 2,000 years old, with early references appearing in the writings of the Greek philosophers, Plato and Xenophon. It was the system of apprenticeship and training that has moved construction from the covered amphitheaters of ancient Rome to the gothic arches of medieval cathedrals, to the steam engines and railways of the industrial revolution to the modern architecture of our cities and towns, more sustainable, efficient and safer than ever before.

Over the years, the innovation of the skilled trades has brought us indoor plumbing, fire safety, skyscrapers, and underwater welding in modern bridge construction.

In the unionized skilled trades, the tradition and innovation of apprenticeship is a self-sustaining economy. Union apprentices are paid a great wage with full benefits and retirement package, as they learn on the job and in the classroom for four years. And their training is an investment to which every member of the union contributes on their paycheck for the life of their career.

That’s why we are so proud and excited to partner with the city of Detroit through Mayor Mike Duggan’s Skilled Trades Employment Program. Over the next 10 years, the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights will triple the number of Detroit residents in our union. To meet that goal, we have pledged that 25 percent of first-year apprentices will also be Detroit residents.

These apprentices will be building the energy plants that power our state as well as the houses, shopping centers and hospitals that power our lives. These apprentices will know what the men and women in our union have always known: the satisfaction of looking around the city that you built, from the ground up, through the tradition of hands-on training.

All of our apprentices come with a different story. Jerry Moody joined our apprenticeship after discovering that college didn’t have the kinds of hands-on learning that matched his natural talent. Jason Ellrich joined our apprenticeship after working jobs that didn’t have the future he was looking for. He wanted to better himself with a rewarding career and he couldn’t find that detailing cars or working in healthcare. And Sabionne Agee joined our union after her children were grown and she finally had the flexibility to do what she’d always wanted: carpentry.

By joining Duggan in his groundbreaking skilled trades program, we look forward to growing that family every year. If you are interested in joining the skilled trades, in building a good career with excellent benefits, and a secure retirement down the road, text FUTURE to 91990.

Mike Jackson is executive secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights.