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Road Commissions investigating apprenticeship program

Negotiating to use former Kirtland Community College facilities

road commission

WEST BRANCH – Regional county road commission managers and Michigan Works! directors met Jan. 28 to discuss a common dilemma – how to develop trained employees for the future. 

Roscommon County Road Commission Manager Tim O’Rourke led the meeting with road commission managers from Iosco, Oscoda, Clare, Midland, Gladwin, and Arenac Counties. 

construction apprenticeship

Currently, in Roscommon County, the road commission hires temporary laborers and gives them on the job training. The temps are eligible to be promoted to higher positions and when a union position opens.

This program has had over 80 percent retention. But O’Rourke figures he will have to replace around 20 positions in the next 10 years – more than what the program could provide. Other counties are facing the same situation, and they are all looking for a way to hire trained employees. 

Consumers Power and Kalitta Air had the same question and turned to Michigan Works! for a solution. That solution was to set up apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeship, according to Michigan Works! is ‘a model for combining on the job training and job-related instruction provided by outside trainers to develop skills to help the apprentice earn a nationally recognized credential through the U.S. Department of Labor.’

Once a business determines what skills are needed for their employees, Related Technical Instruction (RTI) can be given through a local community college. The apprentice can then work with the business, tracking their hours of training, and if needed, receive Trade Readiness Certification (TRC). Students would be eligible for funding though Pell grants or MI Works! grants to help pay for their schooling.

road construction jobs

The business providing the apprenticeship program training would have first choice at hiring students for full time jobs.

O’Rourke would like to see such a program in this area. His research shows that 67 percent of graduating seniors from the Roscommon school district do not go to college. He’s looking for a way to get these students trained in jobs where they can make a livable wage.

“There are tons of jobs right now in the things we do,” O’Rourke said.

County Road Commissions, MDOT, and communities across Northern Michigan all need people who can operate heavy equipment and have a CDL A license. O’Rourke is also talking to local logging companies as well to see if they would like to partner in such a program. And he is working with a group to use the abandoned Kirtland Community College campus in Roscommon as the primary training site. 

First thing is getting the apprenticeship program set. For while each road commission hires and trains new employees, they are all doing it a little differently.

“I think we can all come together to see what that certificate should look like,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke said the group prefers to use the Kirtland property for the program.

“This is beneficial for all of us. We would like to do it at Kirtland’s Roscommon campus. But if we can’t, we will do it somewhere else.”

Photos provided by Road Commission Oakland Cnty., Iron Mountain Daily News

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