BUD graduates 23rd class of pre-apprentices, bids farewell to Program Director Russ Signorino

READY TO HIT THE GROUND RUNNING with new careers in the union building trades, graduates of the BUD program’s 23rd class celebrated receiving their diplomas Oct. 22 at the IBEW Local 1 union hall. The graduates included (from left) – Labor Tribune photo

The Building Union Diversity (BUD) program recently celebrated the graduation of its 23rd class, while saying goodbye to BUD Program Director Russ Signorino.

Prior to the graduation ceremony Oct. 22 at the IBEW Local 1 union hall, Labor leaders thanked Signorino for his commitment to making the BUD program a success. Signorino became program director in 2017, a position he was told would be only 10 to 15 hours a week.

Missouri AFL-CIO President Jake Hummel joked about the 15 hours a week assumption because the position turned into a full-time job, which Signorino graciously adapted to with class and commitment.

“Russ, you’ve been absolutely spectacular since I’ve met you, and you have made it an easy thing for us to take over something that has been run so well,” Hummel said. “You’ve changed people’s lives for the better and I don’t know if there’s any accomplishment greater than that.”

Signorino, who has more than 40 years of workforce development experience, said he was running a non-profit organization out of the United Way and getting ready to retire when he was approached about helping with the BUD program.

“I’ve been with the BUD program four-and-a-half years, and I love it,” Signorino said. “It’s been so rewarding. I’ve heard from so many graduates how the BUD program has changed their lives, given them opportunities they never had before and opened doors they hadn’t had access to.”

The BUD program, created by the St. Louis Building Trades Council, began in 2014 as a recruitment tool to encourage more minorities and women to get into the union building trades. The five-week pre-apprenticeship program offers pre-apprentices the opportunity to visit local building trade unions to give them hands-on basic training and a feel for each of the trades.

The BUD program has had a 91 percent graduation rate and an 82 percent placement rate since it began seven years ago. Of those who have graduated from the program, 80 percent are minorities, 24 percent are women and six percent are veterans.

Based on the success of the BUD program and with the sponsorship and support of the Missouri AFL-CIO, the Missouri Works Initiative took over the work of replicating the BUD STL training and recruiting model statewide. The goal is to continue to increase construction trade participation among traditionally underrepresented groups, including minorities and women and women.

The Missouri Works Initiative took over the BUD program in St. Louis in April and is using the existing expertise to replicate and expand the program to other areas of the state, including Springfield and Kansas City.

Attendees at the Oct. 22 graduation were also able to meet Aurora Bihler, who is taking over Signorino’s post as St. Louis BUD program coordinator. Bihler, an Iron Workers Local 396 journeywoman and an officer on the Local 396 Examining Committee, joined the BUD team last month and was able to work with graduates of BUD 23.

“The BUD program provides an incredible opportunity to meet people,” Bihler said to the graduates. “You are about to meet a community of people who are the most caring and giving – it’s a real Brotherhood and Sisterhood and not every career has that. I’m extremely proud of each and every one of you.”

After receiving their diplomas, the graduates were treated to lunch. Later, they were able meet and interview with local contractors at the event and some graduates were hired on the spot.

The tentative start date for the next BUD class is Feb. 14, 2022. For more information about and the BUD program, visit moworksinitiative.org.


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