Kalamazoo Promise, trade union team up for scholarships

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo Promise is partnering with Michigan’s largest skilled trades union for its newest mission: offering scholarships to a local joint apprenticeship program.

Students at the Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights in Wayland are taught a variety of trades. Once they graduate, their starting pay will be anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 a year.

Skilled tradespeople could make even more money in overtime pay since there’s not enough of them to go around.

“There is definitely a skilled labor shortage in this state, as well as many others,” said Jeff Taylor with the Regional Council of Carpenters.

Enter the Kalamazoo Promise, which provides college scholarships for eligible graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools.

The program, now in its 13th year, has always included tuition for skilled trade programs. The new effort aims to not only expand the support, but change perceptions about the kind of job training available. 

“They hear Kalamazoo Promise, they think college, post-secondary education, college, bachelor’s degree. But there are so many things students can do, and we know all students are not destined to go for a bachelor’s degree,” said Von Washington Jr., executive director of the Kalamazoo Promise.

“We battle with schools having that perception, with parents having that perception. Because everyone want their kids to do better than what they did,” he explained.

But that’s another misconception.

Like all students at the Wayland Training Center, Promise recipients will be paid as they learn. Once they graduate, they’ll have a career that in many cases matches or exceeds the pay for a job requiring a bachelor’s degree.

“We get a lot of people that come to us after having gone to four years of college, and their starting pay is better than where they’re at with that degree,” explained Tod Sandy, the training center’s coordinator.

The Michigan Carpenters and Millwrights Training Center will hold an official ribbon cutting ceremony Monday. An open house for perspective students will take place on May 7, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the center located at 500 Reno Drive in Wayland.   

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