BUD program graduates 26th class of pre-apprentices



CELEBRATING SUCCESS: The Building Union Diversity (BUD) program celebrated the graduation of its 26th class on Aug. 26. Taking part in the ceremony were (front row, from left) BUD graduates Kevin Galloway, Kaylah Doss, Gloria Delgado, Derke Quarles, Kaveyon Clark, Patricia “Trish” Martin, and BUD Program Coordinator Aurora Bihler; and (second row, from left) Ben Lewis (obscured), Harriett Holt, Jamichael Culpepper, Michael Richardson, Dominic Tonione, Damontony Simpson, Stanley Herrington, and Michael Snipes; and (back row, from left) Pat Dolan and Ira Kirkwood, BUD program facilitators. – Missouri Works Initiative photo

The Building Union Diversity (BUD) program recently graduated 14 pre-apprentices now anxious to start careers in the union building trades.

The ceremony was held Aug. 26 at Iron Workers Local 396, 2500 59th St., with proud parents and friends of the graduates attending.

Aurora Bihler, BUD coordinator and a member of Iron Workers Local 396, told the graduates that they had “been fun to work with” and thanked their families and friends for their support.

“When I first got into iron workers, I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. “I graduated with a fine arts degree, had no money, no idea what I was going to do and knew I needed health insurance.

“I decided to sign up for the Iron Workers, and I’ve always loved being an ironworker,” she said. “I try to teach this class in a way that I would want to know. I’m not from St. Louis and have no family in the trades, and I want to make sure my students have at least one person to call.”

Bihler recognized some people who had been instrumental in helping the students.

“Ira (Kirkwood) and Pat (Dolan) have been involved with the BUD program since its beginning and made sure the students got back and forth to the training center each day,” she said. “They also take time to mentor the students.”

Students awarded diplomas were Kaveyon Clark, Jamichael Culpepper, Gloria Delgado, Kaylah Doss, Kevin Galloway, Stanely Herrington, Harriett Holt, Ben Lewis, Patricia (Trish) Martin, Derke Quarles, Michael Richardson, Damontony Simpson, Michael Snipes, and Dominic Tonione.

Quarles said his first choice is electrician, then bricklaying and pipefitters.

“Those are my top picks, but all of them were interesting, and I’m going to sit down and figure out which one would be right for me,” he said. “I know I will always have a job somewhere.”

Missouri Works Initiative Executive Director Greta Bax encouraged the students to seek out industry and community partners in the room and use the opportunity to introduce themselves and network with everyone.

“You are part of this family now,” she said. “Being in St. Louis, you will be connected to a big group of folks who want to see you succeed.”

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


Last year, the Missouri Works Initiative took over the task of replicating the St. Louis program’s training and recruiting model statewide.

Supported by the Missouri AFL-CIO, the initiative is positioned to address the state’s changing workforce needs, such as:

  • Creating healthy and recovery-friendly workplaces.
  • Connecting laid-off workers with job-search or upskilling resources for future employment.
  • Collaborating with community partners to offer innovative points of entry to traditional apprenticeship opportunities.

The AFL-CIO is the umbrella organization in Missouri and has affiliates across the workforce spectrum from retail workers to commercial works and food workers to building and construction trades.

“The AFL-CIO handles the political and legislative advocacy, and where that work ends is where my work begins with the workforce development arm,” Bax said.

“We have construction building programs like the BUD program across the state of Missouri,” she said. “We have one in Kansas City, one in Springfield, and one in St. Louis to build an inclusive construction workforce across the state.

“This is not just a soft introduction to the construction industry,” Bax added. “These students have completed 120 hours of construction curriculum from the North American Building Trades Unions from reading blueprints to construction math to sexual harassment, diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s a comprehensive curriculum that the trades have gathered and said these are the skills needed for a registered construction apprenticeship.”

The next St. Louis BUD class will start on Oct. 10. Applications are due Sept. 28. Interested applicants can apply online by visiting: https://moworksinitiative.org/apply-to-the-building-union-diversity-program/.



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