Millage boosts skilled trades training

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SAGINAW COUNTY (WJRT) - (08/22/19) - A possible delay in construction of the new Saginaw County Adult Detention Center is highlighting the need for skilled trades workers.

The new jail was originally slated to open in January of 2020. But Spence Brothers reports it needs to find more masons in order to avoid a six week construction delay.

Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel said there are a quarter million bricks to be laid in the new facility.

If the mason work is delayed it could push other parts of the project back.

"Because everything is dependent upon another person's work, so iron workers and plumbers and steamfitters, electricians, carpenters, etc. and masons, all working together," Federspiel said.

It's part of an ongoing issue across the state as businesses struggle to get people into skilled trades positions.

Filling the skills gap goes beyond masonry.

In Saginaw County voters approved a millage in Nov. 2018 which will help, down the road.

Before the Career Technical Education Millage passed there were around 400 students enrolled at the Saginaw Career Complex.

"What we're seeing at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year is well over 600 students committing to the Saginaw Career Complex," said Saginaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Kathy Stewart.

The 2019-2020 school year is the first full year CTE Millage is part of the school funding equation.

The complex is owned by the Saginaw Public School District, but students come from each of the 12 districts which make up the SISD.

Before the millage funding was an issue. "Districts had to pay to cover the costs and expenses of the program," Stewart explained.

The millage eliminated that barrier.

Stewart said now it's on to another mindset change for students and parents.

"Industry and industrial work is not what my grandparents or parents experienced when they were working in the shop," Stewart said.

Students can experience 21st century skilled trades while they're still in high school.

"It is really electronic based, so there's a lot of intriguing occupations that are in place now, and some that we don't even know about yet," Stewart said.

At the SCC students can get hands-on experience in everything from cybersecurity to construction to culinary arts.

"With over 850,000 job openings expected in the next few years, we are primed here in Saginaw County to meet the demands," Stewart said.

More than 600 students this school year is just the start. The SISD hopes to see 1,000 students enrolled in the years to come as they explore whether they're headed after graduation.

"They're they're looking at what do they really want to do, how can they pursue that, and what are the opportunities available in our county to reach their dreams," Stewart said.

To learn more about the courses available at the SCC click on the 'Related Link' with this story.

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