GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids Community College program is working to help meet the need for public works employees in West Michigan.

The GRCC Public Works Academy provides training and works with local departments to help find candidates for internships and starting positions in the field.

The instructor, Steven Ray, says graduates leave with certifications and skills.  

“It’s an introduction to public works and what they would do in public works, using tools, the same kind of tools, the same kind of equipment like a forklift, aerial lift,” Ray said.

It can be a challenge to find candidates with the skills needed and the number of open positions keeps growing. 

“The problem with the public works department is — like every other construction company — is people are over 55, the majority of them, and they’re starting to leave the workforce, so they need new people to come in,” Ray said.

On the first day of the class for this semester, students learned how to build shelves to test their skills using power tools and how to safely assemble scaffolding.

Sara Buursma, a student in the program who also works as a hair stylist, is excited about the opportunity and says the pandemic led her to reassess her career.

“I think it was a good time for people to kind of take a look and take stock of their life and if they are happy in their career or what maybe their career might be missing, and I thought this would be a good opportunity in maybe get in working with the city,” Buursma said.

The class this term is twice a week and runs the end of January through the middle of March.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for anybody that wants to get into the public works program to any municipality,” Ray said.

For more information on the program, you can visit the GRCC website.