The incredible impact of the building trades innovative BUD program (Building Union Diversity) is evident in the responses of the graduates coming out of the program.
“This was a real eye opener into the trades. They are really professional,” noted Jempll Cooks, 36, who will be going into the sheet metal workers. “You get to see a wide spectrum of the trades, they don’t sugar coat anything and they have us doing real work.”
He added a critical feature of belonging to a union: “Having a representative ready to fight for us is really important, plus I’ll be earning a pension for retirement and getting health and welfare. Now that’s a career, not just a job.”
Antonio Gear, 28, the father of three young children, noted that, “As I get older, it’s important to me to have a skill that will provide a stable career with good pay so I can provide for my family. And going through the program, everyone treated me as a normal person, and that’s all I could ask for.”
Jonathan Long, 46, the father of four grown children, had worked in the flood restoration business for 10 years. “I needed a career that has good pay, but more importantly, I needed benefits like health care. That’s really important today. As a union member, I can get those. This will take me home to retirement!”
“Going through this program gave me insights I never realized about the trades. This is an excellent program, a great beginning for all of us.”
Given that this class included many older men, David Kesner, 20, was the youngest of the graduates. Kesner, originally from Wisconsin came to Missouri with the Job Corps and learned about the BUD program from his roommate.
“I was surprised to find the union guys really humble, not being selfish and really wanting to help you. This was a great opportunity to experience many trades. We got to experience things people just don’t see and meet people, even potential employers, we would never see. I’ve got a lot brighter future now.”
Kesner has a job as a millwright apprentice. He says that training will give him long-term stability, “not some job I work for a couple years then move on to something else.
“I’m going to stick with this my whole life, hopefully. It means a good job, good benefits, health care and retirement. And if I decide to start a family in a couple years, it’s going to help them as well.”
WOMEN, LOOK TO CONSTRUCTION
The sole woman in the graduation class was Tonya Smith, 40, a mother of five, the youngest 6 months old, who made it clear that this was “a great opportunity for women as well as men to get a career with decent pay.”
A server at Steak ‘n Shake, she has a degree in occupational therapy but no jobs were available. When this opportunity came up, she jumped at the chance.
“This is going to be extremely beneficial for my family. I’ll be able to do afford to spend time with, and do things for, my family.
Looking to be a laborer she pointed out that, “Laborers are skilled workers, they get a lot of training. Nothing like the ‘image’ of a laborer,” she proudly pointed out.
“To young women I would urge: consider construction as a career. I discovered that construction jobs are NOT greasy and dirty as women think. They are a great place for women.”
A SECOND CHANCE
David Sutler, 31, learned about the program through his probation and parole officer. He did time for a drug felony but has been out for two years and was working at Café Napoli when he learned about the BUD program. He’s starting as a carpenter and has dreams of being a civil engineer.
The engaged father of two credits the program with helping him get his foot in the door with a union trade.
“It’s going to mean a career,” he said. “I just wanted something different and better for my family.”
BUILDING A CAREER
“This program builds a career, not just giving you a job,” said Chris Zomphier, 37, a former sales manager for a mechanical breakdown service, one of the 14 graduates. He’s going into the carpenters program.
“This will put years on your life, and really makes me happy,” he added.