Public Works Academy to provide skills for local jobs

Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) has teamed up with local municipalities on a Public Works Academy that will give people in-demand skills – and guaranteed interviews for open jobs.

The seven-week Public Works Academy, which is open to people ages 18 and older who are ready to work, starts April 11. Thanks to a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, academy participants will pay only $25.

“We’re responding to a tremendous need throughout our region for people with these skills,” said Julie Parks, GRCC’s executive director of workforce training. “We’ve collaborated with public works experts to develop a program that helps them fill the jobs that make our communities safer and improve the quality of life.”

Successful graduates will receive interviews with two of the community partners for possible seasonal or intern positions at public works facilities throughout west Michigan.

Training will cover positions that include building specialist, engineering technician, equipment operator, fleet services technician, plant assistant, safety specialist, truck driver and maintenance worker for utilities, streets, grounds and buildings.

Developed skilled workers

John Gorney, Kentwood’s public works director, served on the advisory board that helped design the academy’s curriculum. He’s struggled to fill open positions at a time when many of his baby boomer employees are approaching retirement.

“We’re serving the public — work that is both important and necessary for the people in our communities,” Gorney said. “There’s also a lot of variety in what we do. One day you might be working as mechanic, then another day as an electrician and then driving a truck plowing snow. There’s a little bit of everything, and many people like that.”

In addition to Kentwood, community partners include public works departments for Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, in addition to the road commissions from several local counties, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Prein&Newhof and Rowe Professional Services. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant expanded programs that connect vulnerable populations with careers in public works and health care through GRCC’s new Foundations to the Future project.

About the Author

David Murray
is director of communications at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan.