“I’m looking for a career, not just a job.”
“This is the way to build my future, it’s a turning point for me and my family; I’m building the future for us,” said the father of four, with a great deal of pride.
These comments by a two of the graduates of the Building Union Diversity (BUD) graduation program for minority, female and under-employed workers echoed the response of each of the 14 men and women graduates of the fourth class held on May 3.
Of the 14 who started the nine-week program, 14 graduated in front of proud family members and BUD program sponsors, companies and building trades leaders. Of the 14, five were offered jobs that day by several employers attending the ceremonies and others were in the process of being interviewed.
A GRAND SLAM
To date 85 percent of the participants who graduated are now enrolled in union apprenticeship programs and have jobs with local contractors.
“This program is not a home run, it’s a grand slam for everyone involved,” said John Gaal, director of training and workforce development for the St. Louis-Kansas City Regional Carpenters Council, who has partnered with the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council (who launched the program) and the Eastern Missouri Laborers District Council to create this unique program to get more minorities and women into union apprenticeship programs and onto construction job sites.
Gaal complimented the Bi-State Metro, St. Louis Community College, the management associations and especially the owners of construction projects who are insisting on more minorities and women on their new construction projects and the nine participating unions who are the key to making the program work: Bricklayers Local 1, IBEW Local 1, Iron Workers Local 396, Laborers District Council of Eastern Missouri, Operating Engineers Local 513, Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562, Insulators Local 1, Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 and the St. Louis-Kansas City Regional Carpenters Council.
“But keep in mind that it’s not the trades that hire people and put them to work. We train, companies hire,” said Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building Trades Council, who praised the companies working with the council to put the BUD graduates to work as apprentices.
“We hope with the growing success of our BUD program, more contractors will come on board and consider hiring our graduates,” he stressed.
Aboussie pointed out that “failure was not an option” when it came to creating this program, noting that as an example, in the third class last year, 11 were in the program, 11 graduated and 10 have been placed with contractors.
“You are sitting in the crossroads of opportunity,” Aboussie told the graduates. “There’s lots of work in our industry and lots of opportunity.”
He also pointed out that the St. Louis BUD program could be “the model for the nation of what can be done to bring more minorities and women into the trades when we all work together, as we are doing in the BUD program.”
Gary Elliott, business manager, Eastern Missouri Laborers District Council, acknowledging that unions in the past had issues with bringing in more minorities, said that was a thing of the past.
“We can all make a difference,” Elliott said. “This effort represents what should be done throughout the U.S. It’s a start. My hope for the future is that we won’t need programs like this to see everyone as equal.
“I think the moment we start looking at people as being equal as far as opportunities, the more successful we’re going to be.”
WORKED OUT DIFFERENCES
“Yes, we had our difficulties in the beginning, but we worked together – the community and the unions – to make this tremendous effort possible, and it is working,” stressed Michael Holmes, executive director of the St. Louis Agency On Training and Employment (SLATE), whose organization serves as the recruitment arm to find applicants for the BUD program.
He complimented MSD as being the first organization willing to make an investment in this effort and who is not providing funding to sustain the BUD program. “We’re here to work with the unions to keep this success moving forward.”
Pat Dolan, apprenticeship coordinator for the Missouri AFL-CIO and a St. Louis County councilman, pointed out that for the participants, it’s not only intimidating to come into a program like this, but it’s a real sacrifice as there is no pay for nine weeks which makes participation a “heavy personal expense.”
But in the end, he pointed out, the effort will make good employees who will succeed in building a new career for themselves and their families.
Dolan also thanked the training departments and staff of the unions for their outstanding efforts in making the BUD programs a success.
St. Louis Community College BUD Coordinator Jim Duane stressed to the graduates, “Keep working with your trade, they want you, they need you. It’s now up to you. We’re here to get people jobs. We have 14 people that want to work. You’ve put in your time, now it’s up to employers to hire.”
TO GET INTO BUD
To enroll in the BUD program, interesting persons need to go to the SLATE office, 1520 Market, Room 3050, in downtown St. Louis to fill out an application and go through an assessment. Participants must be 18 years of age or older and able to pass a drug test.
The BUD program is designed to give participants and opportunity to see, and ‘taste’ each trade by actually doing hands-on work. To do this:
- STEP ONE: Participants spend a week in each of the participating trades to see it first-hand so they can determine if it’s the right trade for them as a career. During the week there is both classroom instruction as well as hands-on work with that trade’s equipment.
- STEP TWO: Once completeing a week with each of the participating trades, there will be an opportunity for pre-apprenticeship training that will lead into a trade’s apprenticeship program.