BUD program graduates 33rd class of pre-apprentices

Assistant Editor

NINE PRE-APPRENTICES recently graduated from the Missouri Works Initiative’s St. Louis BUD program. Taking part in the celebration were (from left) Missouri Works Initiative Executive Director Megan Price, BUD Program Facilitator Harriet Holt, graduates David Glenn, Blake Osborne, Justin Buckner, Kevin Jackson, Aayva Muhammad, Ryan Wendelin, Noble Jones, Caleb Hinshaw and BUD program Coordinator Aurora Bihler. The ninth graduate was unavailable for the photo. – Labor Tribune photo

After serving in the U.S. Air Force for 11 and a half years, Ryan Wendelin was looking for a career that provided structure and stability. He says he found that combination after graduating from the St. Louis Building Union Diversity (BUD) program.

“I just signed on to Heitcamp Masonry as an apprentice for Laborers Local 110,” said Wendelin, who was hired the day he graduated from the BUD program. “I am grateful for the opportunity, and I’m setting myself and my family up for the future and for financial stability.”

Wendelin, who has two daughters, was one of nine pre-apprentices that graduated from the BUD 33 cohort. The graduation ceremony was held June 7 at the Iron Workers Local 396 union hall in St. Louis.

The six-week BUD program serves as a recruitment tool to encourage more minorities, women and veterans to get into the union building trades. It provides potential pre-apprentices with the opportunity to visit participating local building trade unions to give them hands-on basic training and a feel for each of the trades.

In addition to career and life skills training, the free program offers:

  • Supportive services.
  • Transportation assistance.
  • Mentoring from trade professionals.
  • A weekly stipend.
  • Work gear (safety glasses, hard hat, high visibility shirts, pants, boots).
  • Tool allowance upon placement into a registered apprenticeship program.
  • Trade placement advising.

Megan Price, the Missouri AFL-CIO’s Missouri Works Initiative (MWI) executive director, introduced the graduates during the ceremony to several agencies that assist the BUD program and thanked Program Coordinator Aurora Bihler for her work in making the program come to life. Bihler got her start in the construction industry as a member of Iron Workers Local 396.

“I think this was the quietest cohort, I’ve ever taught,” Biehler joked. “But I’m proud of all of you and hope that you know that anytime you have a question while out in the field you can shoot me at text, and I’ll try to help the best I can.”

The BUD program was created in 2014 by the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council. The MWI took over the program in 2022 and expanded it as the Missouri Apprentice Ready program in the Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield markets in Missouri.

The MWI also implemented the program at St. Mary’s High School in St. Louis at the start of this school year. Participation in the program counts toward two consecutive elective classes and consist of 120 hours. It’s the first and only program of its kind for high school students in Missouri.

The program is recognized as a comprehensive apprenticeship readiness program (ARP) by the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU). It offers enrollees an introduction to construction employment by using NABTU’s nationally recognized Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) providing relevant national skills certification training, with a particular focus on job safety.

The St. Louis program, offered at no charge to select individuals who meet the admission requirements, has a 92 percent graduation rate and holds four cohorts each year. For more information on the BUD program, visit moworksinitiative.org.

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