Local district cancels building trades course, contractors push - WNEM TV 5

Local district cancels building trades course, contractors push back

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MIDLAND, MI (WNEM) -

Skilled trades are in high demand in Michigan, but the Midland School District had to axe its building trades class because the interest just isn't there.

The Michigan Home Builder's Association is saying not so fast.

Construction season is on a forward charge. The men who work for Wright Builders have laid the foundation for this new home in Midland. Rob Wright, the owner of the company, said this is just one of the projects on tap this summer, but with business a lot better than it was just a few years back, he's still facing challenges.

"We're so short-handed, yeah, we can't find anybody who knows what they're doing," Wright said.

He said that needs to change. He's on the board of the Michigan Home Builder's Association and he, along with other members, plan to go to the Midland School Board meeting on Monday. They're pushing back after the district canceled its building trades course next year.

"We did offer it, but right now we have too low of interest to run the course," Midland Schools Superintendent Michael Sharrow said.

Sharrow said only 15 students signed up for the course, which is not enough to staff the two-hour class. He said he knows the importance of producing local talent, but reinforced that the appeal needs to be there.

"We just need to do a better job of advocating why the skilled trades program is something they should be interested in," Sharrow said.

He said that's a statewide question. But it seems the state is trying to move forward. Just last year, the legislature passed a bill that makes it easier for a student who chooses skilled trades in high school to meet the criteria to graduate. Wright said that's a start, but to lose the local building trades course in Midland next year will be a step back.

"We've got to push for them to not give it up this year, if at all possible, we need to try to find some young folks to get in there, and then build from there," Wright said.

The superintendent plans to offer the building trades course again next year and is also working on a long-term solution to fit the needs of the workforce. In 2017, the district will open a STEM elementary, focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math, to try to increase interest at a younger level.

Wright said he hopes that's not too late.

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