The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 18, 2015

Statewide ad campaign seeks to fill need for skilled workers

By The Building Tradesman

DETROIT – A coalition of organized construction contractor associations and skilled labor unions launched a new advertising campaign on Labor Day to raise awareness about career opportunities in the skilled trades. The MUST Construction Careers campaign includes billboards, bus wraps, and television ads.

The campaign will start in Detroit and feature success stories of local residents Jai Jeffries, Justin Proch and Steve Alston describing how entering into an apprenticeship program changed their lives. See them at

“It’s critical that we bring new people into the industry. There are a tremendous amount of projects either happening now or planned,” said Management and Unions Serving Together (MUST) Construction Careers Co-Chair and Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council Treasurer Patrick Devlin. “We want to see more stories like Jai, Justin and Steve, because there are opportunities out there right now for people to learn valuable skills and start a lifelong career in the construction trades. We’re hoping these ads will tell that story and help us meet the demand for new workers.”

Devlin notes that, when compared to a four-year degree, the skilled trades offer a smart career option for many Michigan residents.

“The average debt of someone graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Michigan is nearly $30,000. That means people are starting in a significant hole before they even begin their career,” said Devlin. “An apprentice will earn money while they learn and graduate virtually debt-free.”

Apprenticeships average two-to-five years in duration with starting wages ranging between $12-$15/hour. Benefits are offered early in the program continuing throughout the career of the construction worker. Upon graduation, union construction workers can expect to earn between $50-$80,000 annually, depending on the specific trade.

Union labor-management partnerships invest $43 million annually for apprenticeship training and continuing education for journey-level workers. In addition, the majority of apprenticeship programs have agreements with local community colleges that allow individuals to earn an associates degree when they graduate from their apprenticeship.

“Michigan’s economy has improved significantly from the peak of the recession,” said Donna Pardonnet, MUST Management co-chair and executive director of ACT Michigan. “But the construction industry cannot fully recover unless we have more skilled workers.”

Based in Detroit, MUST stands for “Management & Unions Serving Together” and represents a united labor-management effort designed to support the organized construction industry. MUST has been offering construction-related drug testing and safety training under the MUST Safety brand for the past fifteen years in a variety of market sectors.

Anyone interested in applying for the union apprenticeship should contact the individual trade union or training center. Contact information for each trade may be found at