HARRIS, Mich. (WJMN) – In an effort to support the training and education of skilled trade workers in the region, The Upper Peninsula Construction Council (UPPC) announced an innovative new program on Saturday called Construction Connect UP (CCUP). 

“CCUP gives qualified high school seniors an outstanding academic education while instilling in them an understanding of the world of work and the skills necessary for competing in the construction industry,” said Mike Smith, UPCC executive director.

The program is a collaboration UPPC and its Signatory Contractors & UP Building Trades Unions, UP Michigan Works, Delta-Schoolcraft ISD, Dickinson-Iron ISD and Marquette-Alger Regional Education Services Agency.

The idea is to develop a program that is skill-based, labor-and industry-approved and directly linked to real workplace situations. Students attend school in the mornings, then spend the afternoons working, learning and earning on job sites.

Construction Connect UP is a pilot program for the second semester of this school year, with three students from Escanaba and one student from Kingsford. In May, students who successfully complete the program may be “drafted” into building trades apprenticeships.

A full program will follow for the 2023-24 school year. 

“The demand for skilled construction workers is growing in the U.P., with exciting projects like Billerud in Escanaba and the Soo Locks, and the renewable energy and electrification efforts coming in the future,” Smith said. “We are creating pathways for high school students to consider a wider variety of career options. In the union trades, you earn while you learn, and graduate debt free with a skill that can take you anywhere.”

Following the announcement, the UPCC held its annual Apprentice of the Year banquet at the Island Resort and Casino to recognize outstanding apprentices in the U.P. construction industry. Twenty-two apprentices were nominated for the title. The winner received $1,000, and two finalists each received $500. 

The winners are: 

Apprentice of the Year – Kale O’Neil – Millwrights Local 1510

Kale began his apprenticeship in May of 2018 and completed in June of 2022. He is known as a leader amongst his peers who shows up early to work and ensures everyone works safely utilizing OSHA principals.

Finalist – Jesse McGovern – UA Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 111

Jesse began his apprenticeship in April of 2019 and is expected to complete in April of 2024. He is respected by his peers as a leader who ensures everyone he works with exercises the required safety so they can go home safely to their families at the end of the day. He is passionate about his craft and hopes one day to train the next generation.

Finalist – Reghan Lakowmowski – Ironworkers Local 8

Reghan began her apprenticeship in February of 2020 and is expected to complete in February of 2024. She is known as a team player who exhibits professionalism and takes great pride in her craft. Reghan is incredibly reliable and leads her peers by example.

The selection panel was made up of James Ebli, Gundlach Champion, Inc. retired; Roxanne Daust, President and COO, Range Bank; Don Maki, Commissioner, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service; Mike Fornetti, Mead/WE Energies retired; and Mike Andary Assistant Professor, TAS, Construction Management Northern Michigan University.

To learn more about what the Upper Peninsula Construction Council is doing in our communities, tap or click here.