YouthBuild Site Visit

A dozen students from the Washtenaw Community College YouthBuild program recently enjoyed a site visit hosted by the Construction Services and Facilities Maintenance departments.

YouthBuild is a community partnership program that aims to teach construction skills to disadvantaged youth in Washtenaw County. Students attend two ten-week sessions, where they have an opportunity to learn about construction trades and complete their GED.

At the request of YouthBuild program director Cristy Lindemann, the U-M skilled tradespersons were happy to meet with students and give demonstrations.

Paul Guttman, associate director for Construction Services, welcomed the YouthBuild students and discussed opportunities and trends in the construction industry before leading them to the Cabinet Shop. Cabinetmaker Bob Burch demonstrated how to make precise and intricate cuts using computer-aided design (CAD) programs and a computerized numerical control router. “Anything we can draw with CAD we can cut,” said Burch. “It opens up the door for your creativity,” added shop foreperson Rich Wilding.

In the Sign Shop and Paint Shop, sign makers Dustin Gilbert and Nick Scott gave an overview of equipment like the rotary engraver, laser engraver and latex printer, which are used to make contemporary signage, vehicle graphics and banners for university departments.

In the Upholstery Shop, the YouthBuild students met upholsterer Brian Reed, who handles most of the reupholstery needs for the entire Ann Arbor campus. Reed showed the group how he takes in worn out furniture, strips it, cuts replacement material and applies it to make each piece good as new. Students were able to try out the electro-trim shear, the foam cutter and the staple guns. “With any trade – doesn’t matter whether you’re a plumber, carpenter, or painter – it’s the tools and the creativity behind the tools that make for a skilled craftsperson,” he said.

Welders Keith O’Neill and Dale Turner described the various types of tools, equipment and protective gear used for welding in the Metal Shops. O’Neill advised the students to try to find something that interests them and then go after it, noting that with Baby Boomers retiring there would be plenty of welding jobs available in the future. Sheetmetal worker Josh Blackmon demonstrated how to shear and bend sheet metal to make anything from duct work to surgical tools. He demonstrated the use of an automated plasma cutter to form an ornate metal Detroit Tigers Old English letter “D.”

At the end of the tour the YouthBuild students each received a Lucite block “M” paperweight as a reminder of their visit to U-M. They thanked everyone who took the time to demonstrate skills, share knowledge and offer advice and encouragement for their career journeys.