Our world is changing. How we learn, work, and live is changing. Earlier this year, Michigan’s Governor, Rick Snyder, announced his Marshall Plan for Talent – an initiative aimed at providing grants to schools that partner with businesses and others to create and develop classes and programs, as well as fill gaps in existing classes, for high-demand careers in Michigan. This initiative also includes funding for the development of collaborative teaching of cross-disciplinary classes such as Geometry in Construction.
As the perception of traditional four-year universities continues to shift, these institutions must embrace curriculum changes. Through certification processes and key partnerships, industries stand to gain the trained tradespeople they so desperately need. But these changes won’t come without cooperation between the design team, constructor, campus facilities, and the various disciplines and functional units supporting the space. Rockford values the unique perspectives and experiences brought by each member of the project team, and we understand the value in working through differing — and sometimes conflicting — opinions to achieve the best results.
Western Michigan University (WMU) and Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) are delivering a multi-faceted, accessible approach for students either working to earn certifications or moving on to what could be a four-year undergraduate or post-graduate degree through the AMP Lab project in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This unique venture between WMU, GRCC, and the private industry is helping to change conversations, all while a shortage of workers pushes wages higher in the skilled trades.
Rockford’s Executive Vice President, Jen Boezwinkle, underscored the importance of these efforts, “Rockford and higher education institutions must adapt, but learners also must change their preconceived notions about what continuing education looks like. Projects like the AMP Lab help students choose where they get on and off the bus, whether that’s with a training certificate or a four-year degree.”
In East Lansing, Michigan State University’s Wonders Hall College of Engineering is taking a toolbox approach to project-based learning with access to equipment, tools, and technology to design, build, or prototype almost anything. When this innovative project is complete, it will serve as an additional alternative for learners.
We’re also reaching students as early as elementary and middle school through our support of programs like MiCareerQuest – an innovative, experiential career event, created in 2015 in response to employers’ need for future talent in construction, healthcare, information technology and manufacturing.
Outside of higher education, we’re doing our part in our communities to support workforce development in the construction industry. Rockford’s Dimensions program provides support to minority-, women-, disability-, and veteran-owned commercial trade contractors by offering exposure to the tools and processes necessary to build their businesses while working toward long-term stability by providing opportunities to bid and perform on local projects.
As we look to the future, forecasts for job opportunities range from 500,000 to 700,000 new jobs in the industry by 2024. What’s more, a 2016 Associated General Contractors survey showed at least two-thirds of its members had trouble filling one craft position. And half struggled to find supervisors and project managers.
While we continue to build environments that support these technology-rich, flexible and adaptable programs, we also must be a part of the conversation and the education process. Mentoring our next generation of tradespeople is critical. From early STEM programs to on-site training, Rockford continues to have a hand in developing skilled trades men and women. The world is changing and through our lessons learned, our industry knowledge, and our thought leadership, we’re making sure it’s changing for the better.