Reconstruction: Michigan's Construction Industry and COVID-19
In the midst of a global pandemic, national social distancing recommendations, and statewide stay at home orders, it’s becoming increasingly apparent which industries and professions are deemed “essential” for societal functioning. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer knows more than anyone, even after her announcement of the state-wide stay at home order on March 23rd, that construction workers are exempt as they are needed to “fix the damn roads,” and overall maintain infrastructure.
Construction workers are operating alongside health care professionals and grocery store clerks as some of the most valuable members of society who are sacrificing their health and safety so that the rest of us can maintain a sense of normalcy. And yet, according to Constructor Magazine and Michigan Construction, there remains a glaring gap between the need for construction workers and the current construction workforce.
Typically, efforts to shrink the construction workforce gap would be occurring now, with events scheduled for March, April, and May. As more and more construction-focused events scheduled for the spring and early summer, including Michigan Construction Career Day 2020, MI Career Quest, Laborers 1076 Construction Career Day, Infrastructure Hiring Events, and Build It: Construction! 2020 have been cancelled or rescheduled until further notice, students, employers, and hirees are missing out on pertinent information and opportunities surrounding trade skills and apprenticeship programs.
During this standstill, event production and construction career efforts have not halted. In the absence of these events, we are working with communities to bridge their local workforce so that they can sustain their businesses with young, eager employees in the upcoming months and years. With an indefinite amount of time on our hands, it is important that we continue to build-- physical and metaphorical pathways alike-- for a more effective societal recovery. With the coming school year and Careers in Construction Month in October around the bend, there are still plenty of opportunities to inspire young professionals with hands-on events, workshops, and guides to success.
Local Michigan and Detroit area companies have been working relentlessly to maintain not just infrastructure, but the Michigan construction industry, during these uncertain times. To name a few: The Detroit Electrical Industrial Training Center is extending their application day from April 20th to May 18th, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 58 have been working to build over 900 hospital beds in Detroit, and Michigan Construction is facilitating Personal Protective Equipment (e.g. face masks and gloves) donations from construction workers to local hospitals in need. Such positive efforts, which focus on sustaining a productive and effective industry, are exactly what we need to continue to build from the ground up.