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Companies turn to Kent County students as skilled worker shortage continues

Kellermeier Plumbing Inc. hosted an interactive skilled trades night at their location near Rockford.

COURTLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. - It's been well-chronicled how badly Michigan needs new skilled trades workers to replace an entire generation of labor edging closer to retirement. 

The latest evidence comes in the form of a December 2019 survey that shows 79 percent of Michigan contractors are most concerned about a worker shortage and worker quality. Add Blaine Kellermeier to that list.

"We're having trouble finding enough help, so I'm trying to build something here in Rockford," he said.

Kellermeier owns a business that bears his last name on Northland Drive. On Wednesday, Jan. 8, he invited middle schoolers and high schoolers from Rockford Public Schools to Kellermeier Plumbing to see what his company does. And many of his friends from other trades industries were there too.

"We have four different building contractors here. We have an electrician, an HVAC contractor, and a welder from Ferris State," Kellermeier said. 

Kids not only got to observe the different trade possibilities, but they also got to roll up their sleeves and try many of the trades including installing windows, welding, soldering, and building a picture frame.

"I'm really passionate about passing on the trades and getting kids involved," Kellermeier said.

He hopes events like this will spark interest in young people and let them know that a college degree isn't the only option if they want to enjoy success in life.

"The kids just need more direction. We're going to train them. They just need to come to work with a good attitude and be willing to learn, and we're going to pay them to educate them. They're going to do very well in life and not end up with a ton of college debt," Kellermeier said.

This was the first interactive skills trades night at Kellermeier Plumbing. There may be more in the future. But for parents who want to give their kids a taste of the trades right now, Kellermeier recommends checking out the Kent Career Tech Center in Grand Rapids

"You want to do that at a fairly early age. With today's curriculum, in high school, you have to plan ahead for that in order for that to fit in. That's why we're encouraging middle schoolers, freshmen and sophomores to start thinking about that ahead of time," Kellermeier said.

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