If you’ve ever tried to restore an older house you know it is hard to find contractors with the skills needed to preserve the home’s character and identity.
The Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) has a plan to help fix that.
It just launched the Living Trades Academy (LTA), a nine-week job training program that will teach unemployed and underemployed Detroiters building skills and help save historic buildings.
The idea is to close the gap between the skills of local contractors and the expertise in traditional trades like wood window restoration, plaster repair, and masonry that new and existing property owners need in order to improve and maintain their homes.
The LTA says its community-oriented approach will do that as well as create economic opportunities for local talent to help revitalize their own neighborhoods.
It will provide hands-on training in a vacant building at 944 King St., formerly a synagogue then a church, in the North End neighborhood of Detroit. It will become a “living lab” where participants will learn high-demand building skills from experienced craftspeople and apply their abilities in real time to the ongoing rehabilitation of the site.
“In just under two weeks, we received more than 80 applications to participate in the LTA,” says MHPN Executive Director Nancy Finegood. “This illustrates the need and desire for this type of traditional building skills training that will lead to gainful employment and simultaneously help to maintain and restore Detroit neighborhoods.”
LTA participants will earn an income while learning energy efficiency, material reuse, and appropriate methods for working with older buildings. They will also receive small business development coaching through the Build Institute and a Lead-Safe certification.
MHPN has identified local restoration contractors and developers who will review successful graduates as potential new hires at the end of the training.
Many older buildings that make up Detroit’s neighborhoods require rehabilitation to remain functional and efficient enough to attract and retain residents.
“These older buildings were constructed with quality materials and craftsmanship and are part of what make Detroit a unique and desirable place to live and work,” MHPN says. “Increasingly, property owners are looking for help to restore and maintain these buildings affordably and efficiently, while also preserving local character and identity.”
The Living Trades Academy has the potential to be an answer.
— Top photo by Andrea Sevonty