Program Director Russ Signorino: ‘We’ve been successful… and we hope to do even better next year’
By SHERI GASSAWAY
Army veteran Deric Mills, moved back to St. Louis in January after spending 26 years doing non-union construction work in Arkansas, a “right-to-work” state, where he was making between $8 to $10 an hour, or $15 an hour if you were lucky.
Mills, the father of two grown children, called his childhood friend Charles Barnes, director of community outreach for the Fathers’ Support Network St. Louis, to ask about services the organization offered to find stable employment.
Knowing Mills’ solid construction background, Barnes connected him with the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council’s Building Union Diversity (BUD) program. The only problem was that Mills did not have transportation.
Fortunately, the BUD program, which also partners with Metro and the United Way, was able to help Mills with transportation during the program. After graduating and joining Laborers Local 42, Mills used BUD’s new Lyft pilot program to get to work. After five weeks on the job, he was able to save enough money to buy a truck.
“It’s a great program, and I took advantage of everything it had to offer,” Mills said. “It benefits you financially, emotionally and physically, and they teach you a lot if you’re willing to learn.”
PROGRAM HAS BEEN A SUCCESS
A partnership with 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, the BUD program was launched in 2014 as a recruitment tool and pathway to get more minorities and women into the building trades,
Local unions open their training centers for pre-apprentices enrolled in the five- to eight-week program to give them basic training and a feel for each of the trades. United Way and Metro provide participants with transportation and assistance with other needs that may be preventing them from getting or keeping a job.
Local union representatives and signatory contractors with job openings attend every graduation ceremony, often hiring the new apprentices on the spot.
From the program’s inception 2014 through July 1, 2018:
• 162 people have entered the program.
• 142 completed the five- to eight-week pre-apprenticeship.
• 120 (85 percent) were placed in good paying jobs with union contractors.
Russ Signorino, director of the BUD program at St. Louis Community College, announced the findings at a recent BUD program update held at the United Way of Greater St. Louis for participating unions, agencies and partners involved with the effort.
“We’ve been successful so far, and we hope to do even better next year,” Signorino said. “And with the help and participation of everybody in this room, I think we’re going to have a very successful 2019.”
In addition to the pre-apprentice training the program provides, BUD also offers support services participants including:
• Transportation to the training centers from a central location.
• Bus passes.
• A $50 weekly stipend.
• Safety equipment (boots, helmet, glasses).
• A $150 tool allowance once indentured to an apprentice program.
• Discretionary support funding through the United Way.
• Mentoring after the program from Missouri Women in Trades and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
• Transportation after graduation.
Signorino said program officials and partners will focus next year on recruiting more young workers and women, developing new partnerships, resources and transportation opportunities, and providing financial education for participants.
Signorino said organizers are also developing a website for the program and putting a call out for volunteers to serve on the program’s various committees.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Anyone interested in participating in a future BUD class should contact SLATE at 314-657-3545.