Students across the country soon will be able to pursue a new apprenticeship thanks in part to collaboration between a successful area business and Schoolcraft College.
The new position, recently approved by the Department of Labor, is Woodwork Manufacturing Specialist. The first apprentice is Logan Leinbach, Schoolcraft College student and employee of Burke Architectural Millwork (BAM) in Livonia.
Kelly Victor-Burke, CEO of Burke Architectural Millwork is still fairly new to the business, which, in part, manufactures or installs built-in pieces (like cabinetry) or free-standing pieces (like rolling islands) for residential or commercial building interiors.
She recognized right away, however, that the industry needed to attract younger people and get them on a defined training and career path.
“In the fall of 2018, Logan had completed Michigan’s Going Pro Pre-Apprenticeship program through Schoolcraft,” Victor-Burke said. “We had been talking about starting an apprenticeship, but I was frustrated with how narrow and out-of-date the available apprenticeships were. Most of the skills we felt we needed were separate: Drafting, carpentry and computer numeric control (CNC).
“I just felt I could come up with something better.”
Her husband, Barry Burke, is a native of Galway City in the Republic of Ireland (now a U.S. citizen) and has been working in the architectural millwork industry for more than 25 years. Kelly taught for 30 years at Eastern Michigan University as co-Director of the Geotourism & Historic Preservation Bachelor of Science Program until retiring earlier this year to concentrate on their business, which opened in 2016.
Their mission is, “Crafting the finest architectural millwork, and actively supporting workforce development in woodwork manufacturing,” with Barry supporting the first part and Kelly focused on the second part.
“While owning his own millwork company was something Barry had dreamed about, for me it was the challenge of trying to attract young people into the trade and re-branding the trade to bring awareness to the great careers in this industry,” Kelly said.
“This new occupation has the ability to be customized by each company. For BAM, we felt it was important to have that person be proficient at every aspect of millwork manufacturing (with the exception of administrative and financial skills) drafting, CNC, actual cabinet building (bench carpentry), installation, estimating and project management.”
Kelly worked with Schoolcraft College’s experts in Occupational Programs, including Pamela Linton, Apprenticeship Coordinator, Occupational Programs; Karen Maxton, Employment and Internship Coordinator, Occupational Programs; Amy Jones, Associate Dean of Occupational Programs, Engineering & Technology; and Dr. Robert Leadley, Dean of Occupational Programs & Economic Development, to help bring the vision to reality.
“Barry and I have so much admiration for Schoolcraft College,” Kelly said. “The school opened its arms to us as business owners and have given us so much support. They actually brought Logan’s resume to us. He’s getting a terrific education in the classroom and completing an apprenticeship without going into student debt. The world is his and he’s going to continue to do big things.”
Leinbach is grateful for the opportunity and excited about his future.
“I like the fact Schoolcraft was the one to lead me to Burke Architectural Millwork and how it evolved from a part-time to full-time job into this apprenticeship - it’s amazing how it has come full circle,” he said. “It’s pretty cool not only being the first person in the country to be enrolled in the apprenticeship but also how I get to set an example for future Woodwork Manufacturing Specialists.”
With being recognized as Michigan’s first and only Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Certified Women’s Business Enterprise and project work at the University of Michigan, Cantoro Trattoria and Cork & Gabel just to name a few, Burke Architectural Millwork is certainly an example of a thriving small business. Kelly believes the Woodwork Manufacturing Specialist program can lead to similar opportunities for entrepreneurs.
“We believe that successful completion of this apprenticeship would make that person very valuable to a company and in the future even give them the ability to start their own business,” she said.