Guest Column

Partnership bringing needed workers to construction industry

January 20, 2017
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A new partnership between Michigan Community Action (MCA) and the Skilled to Build Foundation of Michigan is producing a classic win/win scenario: It is providing low-skilled workers a path out of poverty and offering Kent County homebuilders at least partial relief from a lingering labor shortage.

The alliance also comes at an ideal time in Kent County, where residents needing food assistance now are subject to new work requirements to qualify. Rules that took effect at the beginning of the year require able-bodied adults in Kent County with no dependents to work approximately 20 hours in a nonsubsidized job or community service in order to receive food assistance.

To help fulfill our mission of moving people toward self-sufficiency, Community Action Agencies throughout the state — including Community Action Partnership of Kent County — are working with the Skilled to Build Foundation to pair jobs with potential laborers.

Skilled to Build Michigan Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose focus is to build awareness of skilled trades as a career option. It was formed in response to the tremendous decline in skilled labor within the construction industry during the past decade.

Cutbacks in career tech programs and workers who have left the state have led to a labor shortage that is hindering the growth of Michigan’s residential construction industry. The jobs that Skilled to Build has to offer, most of which require a high school degree or less, will stimulate the construction industry and lower unemployment rates.

Workers in Kent County with no prior skilled training are candidates to fill the jobs available in 17 construction trades. Securing a job in the construction industry may serve as an opportunity for job seekers to learn a trade skill at no cost. Skilled to Build and Michigan Community Action have partnered to help pair jobs with potential workers and wants to see them consider seeking employment in the construction industry, with opportunities to work in interior finishing (painting, wallpapering, etc.) along with more traditional construction jobs.

The industry is in need of employees who are reliable and want to learn, and many of the open positions often do not require much more than a driver’s license and vehicle, providing an opportunity for men and women to find immediate work. Whether job seekers are in need of work or interview clothes, boots and gloves, or a ride to an interview, local Community Action Agencies are committed to providing job seekers with help to succeed.

MCA and the Skilled to Build Foundation applaud the construction industry for opening its doors to less-fortunate job seekers in Kent County, and we believe that employing non-skilled, able-bodied men and women will enhance the quality and efficiency of the construction industry in Michigan.

To help build a stronger local economy, we encourage everyone to help spread the word about the MCA/Skilled to Build Foundation partnership. Applicants can visit the Skilled to Build website ( for a full list of available trades and to submit an application to connect with area employers.

Kate Birnbryer-White is executive director of Michigan Community Action, a statewide association of 29 Community Action Agencies addressing poverty in all 83 Michigan counties.

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