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SPOTLIGHT: José Hernandez, Carpentry Apprentice, Detroiter


José Hernandez worked at a tire repair shop, a packaging factory and a landscaping company before landing a four-year carpentry apprenticeship through a local union.  

Hernandez, now working for Pontiac Ceiling and Partition at the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University, says he finally found a suitable career to provide for himself and his future family.

“I like construction and I love that I get to use my brain,” Hernandez said, adding that previous jobs didn’t always allow him to use his critical thinking skills.

A graduate of the high school at César Chávez Academy in southwest Detroit, Hernandez said he joined Carpenters Local 687 of The Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights in 2016 in hopes of finding enjoyable work that would provide stable, good income.

Before landing at the business school construction site at Woodward Avenue and Temple Street, Hernandez worked nearby at the Little Caesars Arena, framing and adding drywall to various floors of the massive sports and entertainment venue.

At the business school, Hernandez said he continues to use skills he learned at the arena, like reading blueprints, checking measurements and performing layout and framing work.

“It’s like a puzzle,” Hernandez said. “I get to learn new things every day. People teach me how to do certain tasks. Eventually, when I finish my apprenticeship, I will be doing the same thing for other workers.”

Since moving to Detroit from Mexico and becoming a Green Card holder, Hernandez has watched the city transform with amazement.

“It’s nice to see the process. The economy is getting better and there are more jobs available. Detroit is coming up,” he said.

The business school, made possible by a historic $40 million donation from the Ilitch family, is scheduled to open to students, faculty and staff in summer 2018. Home to more than a dozen programs — including new curricula on police leadership, Sport and Entertainment Management and Entrepreneurship — the school will feature pop-up incubator space, a full trading floor and a corner café, among other amenities.

About The District Detroit

The District Detroit is one of the largest sports and entertainment developments in the country. Located in the heart of Detroit, this 50-block, mixed-use development led by the Ilitch organization unites eight world-class theaters, five neighborhoods and three professional sports venues in one vibrant, walkable destination for people who want to live, work and play in an exciting urban environment. Home to the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and Detroit Lions - The District Detroit represents the greatest density of professional sports teams in one downtown core in the country.

Current data from the University of Michigan demonstrates that The District Detroit will account for an economic impact of more than $2 billion by 2020 and create more than 20,000 construction and construction-related jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs.