WMCI Newsletter – Summer 2023
The first WMCI newsletter features a message from president Jen Schottke, a review of new courses, and featured stories from students and donors.
West Michigan Construction Institute’s Education and Training Manager
My job is to keep a finger on the pulse of community needs and offer top-notch programs to meet those needs. This means making sure we have the best instructors teaching the best curriculum. If we don’t already offer the courses the community needs, you can bet I’m figuring out a way to get them offered at WMCI.
A trade school is formal training for jobs that require a high level of intelligence and technical skills. Contrary to common belief, it’s not just for people who don’t fit the bill for traditional four-year universities. If you like a challenge, if you’re amazing at resolving conflict, and if you love to solve complex problems, you’ll find a perfect outlet for all these skills in construction careers. Whether you’re a high school student exploring career paths, or you’re already working in a trade, you can find formal training for it here.
I think WMCI stands out because it provides one central location for people to find all the information they need to understand how to get started in the skilled trades.
We offer National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) certification. When our students graduate from an NCCER course they receive one of the industry’s top, nationally recognized certifications. This is a huge benefit to graduates because it not only improves the quality of their employment opportunities in West Michigan, but in any other location in the country.
I think WMCI also stands out because it provides one central location for people to find all the information they need to understand how to get started in the skilled trades. It can sometimes be intimidating to figure out what’s the easiest, most cost-efficient way to become a construction professional. Or, of all the skilled trade options available, which one you’d actually be most passionate about! WMCI solves this issue by providing guiding resources, offering hands-on experience to explore a multitude of trades, and connecting students to established leaders in the industry.
We listen to the needs of our community partners and local construction companies. Our aim is to provide the kind of quality workers that real employers in the industry tell us they need. Not only that, but we empower employers and employees to improve their skill set. What they were struggling to learn on YouTube before, they can now learn formally through WMCI.
A great example is obtaining a Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) certification. In the past, West Michigan electrical contracting companies had to send their employees all the way to Florida for their certifications. This cost the employers tens of thousands of dollars in expenses and required the employees to be away from their families for a week. After identifying this need, we were able to provide BICSI certification courses and accreditation right here in West Michigan. By cutting costs and saving time, we’ve seen companies (especially the smaller ones) be able to train and certify more of their employees than ever before
With the high wages, boom in exciting projects, and opportunities for upward career mobility, I don’t know if there’s ever been a better time for a young person to get into the construction trades. There are some of the most innovative companies right here in West Michigan and they’re ALL looking for good people.
Carpentry and concrete are very popular and we’ll soon be offering a range of beginner to advanced course options. You will also see training programs for safety certifications, construction technology, and plumbing available in the next semester.
BICSI and ASHE certification courses are always in high demand and sell out quickly. We’re currently the only Michigan trade school in the area that offers them so we’ll be increasing the frequency of these offerings.
We want to be very intentional with our support of the residents in our community. WMCI is located in the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood where around 80% of the population is Latinx, a large portion of whom are in need of living wage jobs. We identified transportation as one of the biggest barriers to achieving that goal. So having WMCI in the neighborhood within easy walking distance means better access for everyone.
We’ve also partnered with the Literacy Center of West Michigan to ensure that we offer options where craft training is paired with English-as-a-second language (ESL) instruction. We expanded this program by connecting with four employers (Buist, Allied Mechanical Services, Windemuller, and Wolverine Building Group) who want to support ESL in construction. The goal is to assist the students in securing employment in the construction industry by the end of the program. In the long run, we’re hoping to see increased family stability, economic growth, and the sense of pride you get when working in a respected trade.
I do my fair share of DIY projects around the house, like designing rooms and refinishing furniture. I also love spending my time in nature, gardening, and practicing yoga.