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GRCC partners with local municipalities for Public Works Academy, providing skills for rewarding careers serving communities

Jan. 10, 2022, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Residents can gain in-demand skills needed for careers with local municipalities through the next session of Grand Rapids Community College’s Public Works Academy, which starts Jan. 25.

GRCC teamed up with local municipalities to provide the program, which includes guaranteed interviews for open jobs.

“Public works employees are vitally important in our communities, and in great demand across our region,” said Julie Parks, interim dean of GRCC’s School of Workforce Development. “This is a great example of how we work with community partners to create opportunities for residents while building a talented workforce.”

Community partners include public works departments for Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Grand Haven, in addition to the road commissions from Kent and Muskegon counties, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and engineering firm Fleis & VandenBrink.

The academy runs 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays from Jan. 25 to March 16.  The program is open to people ages 18 and older who are ready to work. A high school diploma or GED diploma is recommended. A valid driver’s license is required.

Successful graduates will receive interviews with at least two community partners for possible seasonal or internship positions at public works facilities in West Michigan. This is the first step to secure a full-time position.

Job titles include: building specialist; engineering technician; equipment operator; fleet services technician; maintenance worker for utilities, streets, grounds, and buildings; plant assistant; safety specialist; and tree trimmer.

John Gorney, Public Works director for Grand Rapids, said people in public works careers play an important role in maintaining a community’s health and vitality. Many municipalities are seeing an increase in retirements, creating demand – but also chances for people to gain a variety of skills for rewarding careers. 

“Municipalities across the country have been challenged in recent years to attract qualified individuals for entry-level public works positions,” he said.

The Public Works Academy at GRCC was created in 2018 to establish more recognition of public works careers, and provide pathways for people seeking career opportunities and potential advancement. Gorney said establishing a “one-stop” training opportunity for employers to send new or incumbent workers was part of the mission. About 60 people have graduated from the academy so far, with nearly 50 of them obtaining some type of position in the public works field.

“The city of Grand Rapids has directly benefited through hiring of trained and certified individuals, as well as incumbent workers who have advanced in their careers since attending,” Gorney said. “We hope to continue growing the program, and attracting more people to the noble profession of Public Works.”

Additional information is available at grcc.edu/PublicWorks.

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