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New program teaches skilled building trades to Detroiters

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Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

A big component of Detroit’s current revitalization includes the restoration and renovation of its housing and building stock. Who will do the work? A new program aims at creating a skilled workforce to take on these projects.

The Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) officially launched the Living Trades Academy earlier this week in the North End. The nine-week job training program places underemployed or unemployed Detroiters into a building in need of rehab; this pilot cohort is working in a former synagogue and church, which will become a “living lab” where they’ll learn trades from skilled craftspeople.

We see many quick renovations and flips around the city; this program teaches skills like plaster repair, window restoration, and masonry meant to preserve the historic character of these homes and buildings.

After the nine-week program, the goal is to get the participants into jobs with local contractors and developers.

The participants receive an income while working in the program; they’ll also receive small business coaching from the Build Institute and Lead-Safe Certification.

“In just under two weeks, we received over 80 applications to participate in the LTA,” states MHPN Executive Director, Nancy Finegood. “This illustrates the need and desire for this type of traditional building skills training that will lead to gainful employment and simultaneously help to maintain and restore Detroit neighborhoods.”

The Living Trades Academy has received support from the McGregor Fund, The Americana Foundation, Clannad Foundation, Chemical Bank, Marvin Windows, Fallbrook Credit Finance, National Funding Inc, Farbman Group and preservationists.

We’ll have photos of the worksite and more information on the program in the coming weeks.