The St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council’s Building Union Diversity (BUD) program graduated its 12th class of pre-apprentices recently, setting 12 graduates on track for good paying careers in the building trades, with skills they’ll be able to keep for a lifetime.
The BUD program was launched in 2014 to bring more minority and female workers into the union trades in a partnership between the Building & Construction Trades Council, the Eastern Missouri Laborers District Council and the St. Louis-Kansas City Regional Carpenters, with funding from the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE) and the Missouri Division of Workforce Development.
Local unions open their training centers for the pre-apprentices during the five- to eight-week program to give them basic training and a feel for each of the trades. United Way and Metro also help, providing participants with transportation and assistance with other needs that may be preventing them from getting or keeping a job.
Pat Dolan, apprentice coordinator for the Missouri AFL-CIO and president of Sprinkler Fitters Local 268, said the program wouldn’t be the success it is without the participation of the various unions’ training departments.
“Without them making themselves and their training departments available, we couldn’t do this,” Dolan said.
NOT A ‘TRAIN AND PRAY’ PROGRAM
Dr. John Gaal, director of training and workforce development for the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, said BUD is not like other “train and pray” job training programs that provide people with job skills training but no real help in finding a job. BUD is focused on putting participants on a path to good paying, life-long careers.
“It’s probably one of the most successful construction-related apprentice programs,” Gaal said, noting that the participating unions, with their eye on placing graduates into jobs, change with each class, so that those trades in need of additional apprentices to meet contractors’ work needs are the ones making themselves available to BUD participants in each session.
During the most recent five-week program, BUD participants visited the training programs of the Operating Engineers, IBEW, Carpenters, Sheet Metal Workers, Brick Layers, and Cement Masons.
“Our goal is to provide opportunities for placement at the end of training with the participating trades in each session,” Gaal said, adding that local contractors’ embrace of the program is key to fulfilling BUD’s mission.
Local contractors with job openings and union representatives attend every graduation ceremony, so graduates, armed with their new resumes, have an opportunity to interview on the spot, and after receiving their certificates, often leave signed up for an apprenticeship program and working in the industry.
Unions and union groups with representatives at the graduation ceremony included the Bricklayers, Carpenters, Cement Masons, Communications Workers, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Laborers, Operating Engineers, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Roofers and Sheet Metal Workers.
Local contractors and hiring managers at the graduation ceremony included representatives from: Bates Utility, BJC HealthCare, Franklin Mechanical, ICON Contracting, J.M. Marschuetz Construction, Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), Paric Corporation, Rock Hill Mechanical, S.M. Wilson, Tarlton Corporation, TSI Global and U Dream It We Build It.
“Without the contractors here, this doesn’t work,” Gaal said. “Because they’re the ones doing the hiring. It isn’t the union. It isn’t the apprenticeship schools.”
Russ Signorino, BUD program director at St. Louis Community College said: “I am always impressed with everybody that’s been involved with BUD. But I am really impressed with the participants in the program. They show up on time. Some of them are working while going through the program. They’re dedicated, and they’re motivated.”
Anyone interested in participating in a future BUD class should contact SLATE at (314) 657-3545.