Construction, Higher Education, and Human Resources

Construction alliance earns statewide honor

June 26, 2014
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Helping to get the CWDA off the ground are, from left, Charles Lane, Norm Brady, Benjamin Wickstrom, Linda Vos-Graham, Emily Siebert and Jacob Maas. Photo by Mike Nichols

An industry-wide initiative has been recognized by the Michigan Works! Association for its accomplishments in building the talent pipeline for opportunities in construction throughout West Michigan.

Michigan Works! Kent & Allegan Counties, a comprehensive workforce development agency, recognized the Construction Workforce Development Alliance of West Michigan with its first Michigan Works! Association Prosperity Award this month for its efforts to redefine the image of the construction industry and to promote career opportunities in West Michigan.

The CWDA is comprised of the Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter, American Subcontractors Association of Michigan and the Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids.

The awards are based on creation of new jobs, transformational training and effective talent pipeline development. Those honored at the Lansing event received awards presented by local lawmakers and state workforce development officials, according to a press release.

Norm Brady, president and chief executive officer at the ABC Western Michigan Chapter, said the Prosperity Award recognized the collaborative arrangement that has developed among the three associations of CWDA and its strategic partners: Michigan Works! Kent & Allegan Counties and Grand Rapids Community College.

“When we got the award it certainly told us that we were headed in the right direction and we were doing things that others recognized as valuable,” said Brady. “It just validated the steps that we had taken. There are three associations and two strategic partners that are really driving the efforts here.”

A total of 18 collaborative talent development efforts were recognized at the inaugural event, representing the 10 regional talent districts across the state of Michigan. The CWDA, GRCC and Michigan Works! Kent & Allegan Counties were acknowledged for their collaborative and innovative work in bringing skilled workers into the construction industry.

“CWDA was really formed to tell the real story of construction, and that is a story about great career opportunities, great pay,” said Brady. “It’s a high-tech industry requiring teamwork and collaboration, so we are trying to get the word out about the opportunities that exist in our industry.”

Deb Lyzenga, business service manager at Michigan Works! Kent & Allegan Counties, said the Prosperity Award acknowledges the work the CWDA is doing to attract young workers who may not be aware of the construction industry.

“They are a very forward-thinking group and they are pushing hard to get this done,” said Lyzenga. “Given that they have worked so hard to put this together, and so quickly, I was just thrilled that the Michigan Works! Association was honoring them.”

Brady said some of the efforts included building an industry resource website, outreach programs with surrounding schools, scholarship opportunities and the Construction Core Certification program. The specialized training program held at GRCC is designed to prepare individuals for employment opportunities in the industry throughout West Michigan.

The GRCC construction program is a 96-hour curriculum encompassing industry specific skills, and gives participants the opportunity to complete certifications from the National Center for Construction Education and Research, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The first class of students enrolled in the Construction Core Certification program graduated on May 21, and all 18 graduates found employment with local builders and contractors, according to the press release.

Julie Parks, executive director of workforce training and Tassell M-TEC at GRCC, said the college was excited to collaborate with the CWDA in creation of the program.

“We are proud that the state has found it deserving of the Prosperity Award,” said Parks. “It’s a great example of how GRCC collaborates with local employers to ensure that our region supplies the best-trained talent in the world.”

Brady said the level of trust that developed among the associations and the strategic partners as they tackled talent development was terrific.

“I think it is unusual that associations in the same industry could come together on an issue that affects us all. In other words, we are not competitors in any way,” said Brady. “We have a great future, and this alliance is making a difference and there will be more things to come.”

According to Lyzenga, there is a discrepancy of skills desired by employers and those of new workers, which has resulted in the innovative and collaborative efforts by employers in different industries to upgrade the skills for some of the current and emerging workforce.

“We’ve never seen this type of collaboration and innovation born out of need to bring and attract workers into some of the industries … and that is what they wanted to honor,” said Lyzenga.

The Michigan Works! Association also recognized the Mercy Health and the Michigan Works! Muskegon-Oceana Counties partnership at the event. The two West Michigan organizations’ partnership involves job postings and WorkKeys testing assistance.

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