More than 3,000 people are expected to attend an upcoming worker training expo in Detroit to learn how to take part in three massive Bedrock developments planned in the city.
The expo — called Ready. Set. Build! and scheduled for Wednesday at Cobo Center — is equally important for contractors, who are struggling to meet hiring quota rules from the city and county.
Produced by Bedrock and sponsored by Detroit-based Barton Malow Co. and Turner Construction Co., which has offices in Detroit, the event aims to ultimately equip Detroiters with jobs on three projects: the Hudson’s site skyscraper and Wayne County criminal justice center near Midtown, which are being handled by Barton Malow, and the Monroe Blocks project, which is being led by Turner.
In addition to the general contractors, more than 30 other vendors and subcontractors will be available for the event, which is free and open to the public, with free parking in Cobo garages.
“By hosting these outreach events, we increase the chances of employment for a person who had either no experience or no knowledge of the opportunities,” said Dannis Mitchell, diversity manager for Barton Malow. “There’s no shortage of opportunities and no reason for potential career seekers not to be at this event.”
Mitchell said at peak construction, there will be upward of 1,400 workers on the three construction sites per day. She said as projects get underway, it will become clearer how many workers total must be hired to complete construction.
Open jobs span virtually the whole range of construction, from cement pouring and excavation to electrical work, plumbing, general labor and many other fields. Pay also varies widely — from $12 per hour during training to $36 an hour post-graduation.
The event, which coincides with National Apprenticeship Week, is targeted at construction workers looking for jobs as well as aspiring tradespeople interested in apprentice training programs.
Those interested are encouraged to register online, but it is not necessary. Registration can be completed on the event website, where more information is also available.
The event, and others like it for past projects such as Little Caesars Arena, was created in response to a general labor shortage that has made it difficult for contractors to find qualified talent in Detroit. The city is attempting to improve the situation by partnering with local unions and offering more training opportunities.
Mitchell said past workforce events, like those for work on Little Caesars Arena, have been successful at filling job openings. Even though the LCA saw work from more than 1,100 apprentices, the project fell short of city workforce rules. Contractors, including Barton Malow, were forced to pay more than $5.2 million in fines.
Detroit mandates that 51 percent of workers must be from Detroit for projects inside city lines. Developers are largely coming up short, with LCA being one of the most recent prominent examples. Noncomplying projects are fined, and that money is invested in workforce training efforts. So far, $6 million has been raised for the fund.
“Industrywide, there has been a challenge in identifying qualified people to fill these skilled trade roles,” Mitchell said. “It has caused our industry to really take a hard look at what we’ve been doing in the past.”
She said the shortage stems from the industry’s failure in the past couple of decades to “backfill,” or train younger workers to replace those who are nearing retirement. Some of the blame also falls on the education shift in the early 2000s, when schools went from encouraging students to enter the trades to encouraging them to go to college. The result has been a dearth of talent in the trades.
Mitchell said interested workers should join apprenticeship programs as soon as possible, so they are trained when construction takes off next year.
“We are going to exhaust every opportunity we have to achieve those workforce requirements,” she said.