By Bill Loomis| Crain’s Custom Media
As the New International Trade Crossing creates a new border crossing over the Detroit River, it will also creating thousands of jobs. And soon, the outreach starts.
A 2012 report by independent economists and reported by the US Department of Transportation estimated that the construction of the NITC will directly create 10,000 temporary jobs in the United States — half the bridge will be constructed by Canadian labor, and half by Americans.
“We want to include Detroiters and others from this region for this great opportunity,” said Don O’Connell who has been with the Labor Management Group of the Operating Engineers Union ten years and in the building and construction industry for over 30 years.
To begin working on the outreach, a partnership of regional entities has been formed to prepare people for construction jobs who have had limited work experience or been chronically unemployed. Part of this effort has been to develop a training program call “Access for All,” which is a nine-week course targeting “hard” and “soft” skills for people.
O’Connell explained that many regional applicants for the bridge construction will be new to the construction industry and what US building contractors will expect of them. They will need training on “hard” skills such as reading, understanding blue prints, and basic math, as well as what O’Connell calls “soft” skills.
“Soft skills include basic business sense, such as showing up for work on time, working on a team, understanding work performance, and more,” he said.
The $2.1 billion NITC project is viewed as an improvement for international commerce because it will provide uninterrupted traffic flow; traffic crossing the border using the new bridge is anticipated to grow from 18,500 vehicles a day in 2016 to 26,500 by 2025 according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, supporting 8 million jobs in the United States and 3 million in Canada. As a result, bridge supporters point to the importance of this project to the economic growth and security of both countries.
Building up Metro Detroit’s labor pool is critical as other large construction projects, such as a new arena for the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit will also need construction labor.
“We believe the Red Wing project will be underway before the NITC construction begins,” said O’Connell.
“While the bridge construction jobs are temporary, the skills required to build a bridge are no different than those to build other large structures, and we anticipate that this opportunity will provide not just temporary jobs for Detroiters but careers in the construction industry.”