Trade School Students Returning to the Classroom in Record Numbers

    MADISON HEIGHTS — It’s among the hottest topics in the news these days: whether to choose the path to a “traditional” higher education degree or to pursue a trade school education. Proponents of trade schools and pursuing a career in the “Trades” say that college isn’t for everyone, and – as important a college education can be for some – it is very expensive and takes two years or more years to achieve a higher ed degree.

    Moreover, if a student chooses to attend graduate or professional school, achieving the goal of an advanced degree can take as long as 12 years.

    In contrast, the Southeast Michigan Construction Academy (SEMCA) has been providing both men and women from all walks of life entrée into high-paying Trades careers for more than 30 years; and, with recent discussions over mounting college tuition debt, SEMCA is welcoming thousands of new students into their ranks, especially over the past five years.

    Consider this: As recently as only six years ago, enrollees into SEMCA classes totaled 185; yet, after the launch of the Fall 2022 semester, more than 550 students signed up with over 600 expected by the time Winter 2023 courses begin in January.

    “We are seeing a significant shift into the trades from both younger traditional college-entry age students as well as other adults who are looking for a career change into something that would help provide a more stable living for their families,” SEMCA CEO Keith Ledbetter said.

    SEMCA students have the opportunity to build careers in electrical, carpentry, and welding at campuses in Madison Heights, Lapeer, Grand Blanc, Westland and Monroe; and, for the first time ever, a “heavy construction” training program will launch at SEMCA in January.  This program will help Michigan meet the labor demands by teaching new crafts professionals how to build the state’s road and water infrastructure that has been the emphasis of elected officials both in Washington and Lansing.

    SEMCA is a provider of formal construction apprenticeship programs through the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship as well as more informal “craft training”. Working with the Associated Builders and Contractors of Southeastern Michigan (ABC), the trade school is an NCCER Accredited Training Program, awarding nationally recognized credentials and certificates upon completion of each level of study. ABC is also a federally certified training program by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

    What makes SEMCA unique, even among other trade schools, is that it offers far more than just classroom theory and how-to videos offered by many commercial education programs.

    With coursework developed by seasoned industry professionals, SEMCA provides face-to-face learning and skill application at a fraction of the cost of most for-profit trades programs. Because its professional instructors understand real-world needs, SEMCA’s ‘Learn While You Earn’ model allows students to work in their chosen field while they develop their skills. In fact, many employers will pay for the schooling of employees who demonstrate their abilities and a commitment to their company.

    Students are encouraged to discover and enhance their interests and abilities, providing a boost in developing the hands-on skills, industry-specific education and valuable certification needed to succeed without having to worry about a mountain of tuition debt.

    After successfully completing the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) curriculum and documenting 8,000 hours of on-the-job hours for four-year programs, graduates are qualified to take their journeyman’s certification exam.

    Additionally, a path has been charted for construction professionals under 40 to take on leadership roles. This includes pinpointing and enhancing a worker’s leadership roles by their companies and industries with trade associations playing a big part in that role.

    Cadar Torrence, a first year SEMCA carpentry student, said: “As I look to the future and reflect on my past, there is nothing more that I want out of life than to achieve my goals and become successful. With the completion of high school at Renaissance High School, I look forward to attending an outstanding school such as the Southeast Michigan Construction Academy. Getting accepted was a huge victory and will assist in my endeavors. As a young black male growing up strong but in a rough city at times, this can seem far-fetched. There aren’t many of my peers attending college in Detroit. It might be because of financial issues or just a lack of opportunity. Becoming a carpenter is a dream that I hope to make reality.”