Detroit carpentry apprentice training sees spike in enrollment

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The salary is solid and the jobs are everywhere.

"We have starting apprentices in their first year that have made over $70,000," said Chris Briggs.

Briggs, an instructor with Detroit Carpenter Apprenticeship school based in Ferndale, has seen a huge spike in enrollment -- a 65 percent increase in the last three years.  
Booming downtown projects have sparked the fire within for guys like Charles Barber. Three years into his career at the school, he's helped build the home of the Red Wings and Pistons. 

"One prime building is Little Caesars Arena, a big building like that. To touch different projects in Detroit where my kids when they get older will show their kids, my grandkids and they can say that I built that building," he said.

FOX 2: "And what's that like to see the arena on TV?"

"Oh it's amazing to know that my fingerprint is on that building in being a part of that Little Caesars Arena," he said.

The school has roughly 700 students enrolled right now.  Apprentices don't have to pay a penny for the education and instead get paid while they're there -- more than $17 bucks an hour as apprentice. That goes up to $32 an hour down the road.  

"That's just their base pay, that doesn't include their annuity, pension, healthcare. That's all after that. That's just the $32 on their check," Briggs said.

From new apartments to the Hudson's building downtown, more work is popping up almost weekly. And then there's the new bridge to Canada. Apprentices from the school will work on it this spring.  

For Juantor Nicholson, having done 19 years in the military, he was ready to develop a skill and get paid good money. And unlike a four-year traditional school, they don't walk out with debt. 

"Most people that come out of this program don't have a student loan debt so that is one huge plus for you and then you have a skill that you have no matter where you go in the world and use it," Nicholson said.

"Kids are out of high school that are coming in, people that are older that have decided they don't want to do the same thing, they want to change and it's good because we have the work to be able to put them out on the job," Briggs said.

"It provides a way for you to provide a way for your family. And you can also see something you build and it could be around for years and you can show your kids the work that you did," Nicholson said.

The Detroit Carpentry Apprenticeship School is hosting a career fair from 8-10 a.m. April 17 at 1401 Farrow Street in Ferndale.