Gladstone welcomes new training facility
GLADSTONE — A state of the art training facility for operating engineers opened in Gladstone Friday, with local dignitaries and representatives from the Operating Engineers 324 (OE324) performing a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the building to commemorate the occasion.
The facility, which will be used to train the next generation of operating engineers — skilled tradesmen who work in the construction industry — is the first of its kind in the Upper Peninsula, said John Osika, OE324 JATF training coordinator. OE324 operates a training site in the Lower Peninsula at a 555-acre site in Howell, Mich.
“We are all very excited to have it here in Gladstone,” said Osika. “We’re so fortunate to have this opportunity for the people up here.”
The building in Gladstone sits on five acres of land on 802 Clark Drive and took about 10 months to renovate. CR Meyer in Escanaba was the lead renovator on the project.
Some training that will be offered for members of the OE324 will include forklift, OSHA 10, OSHA 30, and many others, noted Osika.
Not only will the facility be used to train future operating engineers, but it will also house training and educational sessions for current operators and rescue training exercises with law enforcement and first responders. Located inside of the building is a confined space classroom, which will eventually host demonstrations on how to rescue someone if they are caught in rubble or inside of a tight space while on a construction or mining job.
Douglas Stockwell, OE324 business manager and general vice-president, said having the training site in the U.P. will make teaching upcoming engineers much easier, as they won’t have to travel as far to be certified, adding he hopes that it will develop to the standard of the building downstate.
“I’d like to make a mini Howell out of this,” said Stockwell. “We’ll be able to advertise training and get them off to work.”
In addition, CPR, first aid, hazmat and mine safety will also be taught at the 11,000 square-foot facility. According to Osika, safety is of the upmost importance before entering any construction site.
“It’s all safety related,” said Osika, adding in the future, they hope to have crane certification added to the list of opportunities at the facility.
Osika explained that OE324 members have to be re-certified every five years. Currently, there are over 14,000 OE324 members throughout Michigan and close to 800 in the Upper Peninsula alone. The first courses at the new facility will be taught the first week of January.
“Anything we can do here we are going to do here,” said Osika, adding there will a lot of hands on training as well as Skype sessions with instructors from the downstate facility.
Those attending the tour Friday included Superintendent of Gladstone and Rapid River Schools Jay Kulbertis. Kulbertis said having the site close to home will allow more opportunities for students to explore the skilled trades workforce and raise awareness of what these career paths can offer.
“What we’re looking to do is to figure out more options for students that will allow them to go into construction trades,” said Kulbertis.
Although area students get some training for skilled trades at the Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District, Kulbertis said some have trouble fitting that training into their schedules. By having such a facility in close proximity, students could come to the building for an hour a day instead of a full afternoon if it works better for them, said Kulbertis.
In addition to Kulbertis, State Sen. Tom Casperson, OE324 Labor Management Education Committee Director Lee Graham, Tony Retaskie, executive director of the Upper Peninsula Construction Council and OE324 President Ken Dombrow also attended the opening of the new facility.