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Northern Michigan in Focus: Industrial Arts Institute in Onaway

There was once a time when trying to find a plumber or electrician wasn’t too hard.

Today, things have changed. More people opted out of the skilled trades as a career.

Now those jobs are in very high demand, and there’s a great place to learn how to do it all.

Corey Adkins takes us to the Industrial Arts Institute for this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

“The need is probably global, but we’re just talking nationwide. We’re behind in infrastructure, bridges, buildings and things like that. The other thing we’re behind on is power, the energy industry is behind and all this stuff is welding,” says Mike Mehan, instructor at Industrial Arts Institute.

You hear it almost every day; the infrastructure of our country is falling apart and the need for skilled labor is skyrocketing. Enter the in Onaway.

“I heard it was the place to go. I had a couple friends in school and they said, ‘Hey, it’s a good program.’ You learn a lot in just a short period of time, too,” explains Layne Peshaba, a student at Industrial Arts Institute.

That’s one of the keys to success here. The program is only 15 weeks long.

“It’s a fast track to create people to be able to weld at a skill level to be able to help the industry. Minimal expense and high output is what we’re shooting for, making people hirable, teaching people work ethic along with the different processes of welding,” says Mike.

The course is short but not easy. It’s based off of the 40 hour work week.

“Forty hours a week, and one of the hardest things to teach people, especially the young, is work ethic. We start right at 8 a.m. and don’t come in late, we don’t tolerate that. Breaks as far as smoking and these things, we’re pretty punctual when break time is and we try to install a work place environment. It’s a big deal and get them job-ready basically,” explains Mike.

Layne says, “I like to make things, build things, repair things; it’s just always fascinated me.”

For 20-year-old Layne Peshaba, from Petoskey, it’s a perfect way to stat a career.

“I’ve always been an industrial-minded person and welding, I figured, would be the way to go,” says Layne.

But for Joe Lindquist from Munising…

“I’m here for a little different reason than the younger guys. My family company is planning on building a commercial tour boat up in Munising, and so I’m here to gain the skill set to help our company do that,” explains Joe.

They even teach veterans of the business. One group works in the quarry on Drummond Island.

“The corporate people have an issue with modernized equipment. The people that send him here, those people get new computers every couple years and the guys who are doing the work out in the yard or on the floor have equipment from the 70s and 80s. The old equipment limits the type of processes you use, and the technology of welding is vastly increasing in quality and they’re not keeping up,” explains Mike. 

No matter the skill level or reason to get a skilled trade, there’s jobs out there.

“The other issue you have is my generation, the older generation, is retiring. There’s a big void and there’s nobody picking that up,” says Mike. “It’s good money and it’s not being grasped fast enough in this country,” says Mike. 

Layne tells us, “It’s a good feeling to know you’re doing something and you’re on the right path to success and hopefully you’ll get there.”