WCMA Joins Effort to Expand Job Prospects for Youth

Hands-on training raises students’ awareness of skilled trades

Aug 11, 2016

Story and Photos by Meghan McBrady
NTC Communications

GDYT participants going over safety procedures in WCMA classroom
GDYT participants going over safety procedures in WCMA classroom

WARREN, Mich. – The UAW-Chrysler World Class Manufacturing Academy (WCMA) has partnered with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, philanthropic and corporate leaders to introduce young people to career opportunities through hands-on training they’d never experience in high school.

The academy supports the Grow Detroit’s Young Talent initiative by hosting a six-week summer program during which students learn about jobs in the skilled trades, and how they can qualify for these much-in-demand, well-paying positions.

The program that ends Aug. 15 has exposed seven students to experiences that go beyond remembering historical facts and mathematical equations in a classroom. They’re learning work readiness and life skills through the same type of on-the-job training that’s provided to employees of FCA US LLC.

“When you are shown how to utilize these tools and have students showing a knack for trade skills, it can open a lot of eyes and doors, and encourage them to consider skilled trades as an option for a career in life,” said Georgan Redmond, a UAW-Chrysler National Training Center (NTC) staff member.

Grow Detroit’s Young Talent’s goal was to place 8,000 to 11,000 Detroit residents,14 to 24 years old, in a professional work setting for the summer, where they would make a decent wage while helping to identify and begin preparing for good career.

The initiative was spearheaded by Duggan with support from Detroit civic leaders, businesses, labor unions and community organizations.

Shawn Fain, Assistant Director of the UAW’s Chrysler Department, said the program at WCMA provides students with strong work readiness training in a corporate setting.

Rather than having them sit behind a desk, copy and shred papers, Fain said, students learn about a variety of skilled trades – ranging from carpentry to basic residential electrical wiring, pipe-fitting and welding – from experienced WCMA instructors.

Jordyn Britt, 18, working on a welding project
Jordyn Britt, 18, working on a welding project

“We put them in the same training labs that we put our skilled-trade employees,” said Fain, who coordinates the UAW-Chrysler apprenticeship program for the trades.

“It’s important that they are going through some of the same training and using the same equipment as our employees. For a kid who has never touched anything like this, dropping welding beads is an awesome thing.”

During the week of July 25, the seven Grow Detroit’s Young Talent student participants focused on basic welding.

After going over safety precautions and receiving an overview of different items made through welding, the students applied their new-found knowledge in one of WCMA’s skilled trades labs.

Jordyn Britt, 18, said she appreciated learning from the instructors, as they were respectful, patient and attentive as they worked with the young people.

“They’re nice people who take it step-by-step, and take their time explaining stuff,” she said. “They give excellent advice and excellent resources, and it’s a really amazing program. Honestly, if I had to choose next year where to come, I would still want to come here.”

Miracle Fizer, 20, making sparks fly as she cuts through metal
Miracle Fizer, 20, making sparks fly as she cuts through metal

With sparks flying as metal was fashioned into various shapes and items – names, hearts and a lunchbox, Britt and the other students chattered through their welding masks.

There was an air of excitement as their steady hands and intense concentration combined to create something tangible, something they would be proud to tell others they made.

Miracle Fizer, 20, said the experience at WCMA has been gratifying because she had fun while gaining a new appreciation for the skilled trades and the career opportunities they offer.

“Majority of everything is hands-on, and I’m a visual and physical learner,” she said. “Hopefully, whenever I get into my career I can say that this experience has pushed me forward and taken me further than where I would have been if I was not part of this program.”

As the program draws to a close and the students say goodbye to their mentors, they realize a well-rounded education can be found beyond a classroom and perhaps open the door to a career in the skilled trades.

“The mentorship piece here is an added bonus for the students,” Redmond said. “They are listening, taking everything in and understanding that they can do this as a career just because they had this wonderful experience.”