By TIM ROWDEN
More than 30 graduates of the Building Union Diversity (BUD) program, along with their friends, family, union officials, program organizers and supporters recently gathered at Carpenters Hall in St. Louis to celebrate four years of helping participants discover and land good paying jobs in the building construction trades.
Launched in 2014, in an effort to attract more minorities and women into the building construction trades, BUD has conducted 14 sessions (or cohorts), with 162 people starting the program, 142 (88 percent) completing the five- to eight-week sessions and 120 (85 percent) landing good-paying union represented jobs. The percentage of minorities enrolled in the program through October was 83 percent, with women representing 17 percent and veterans representing six percent.
A partnership between the St. Louis 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, active recruitment and word-of-mouth have helped the program grow.
Several of the graduates at last week’s reception talked about how a friend had completed the program, landed a good-paying job and told them about it, and how they then completed the program and told someone else.
‘I WAS A SKEPTIC’
“I was a skeptic at first,” said Shaun Jones, a 2017 graduate who now works for J.M. Marschuetz Construction. “I didn’t want to go through another program that had a dead end. There were some steps to get in, but I came in knowing what I wanted to do, and I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. It’s a great program and gave me an opportunity at not just a job, it’s a career. I feel like it’s a step in the right direction. I got what I wanted out of it. I got exactly what I was looking for, doing exactly what I wanted to do.”
Daniel Dortch, who went through one of the early classes and directed Jones to the program, said, “I try to get as many people as I can to join the BUD program. Before I graduated, I had a letter of intent. My first year was pretty rough, but once I got accepted to my union hall, I met Sam (Carpenters Business Representative Sam Adams) and I look at him as my mentor. He makes sure I go to work and do what I have to do.”
‘IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE’
Keesha Baldwin, a BUD graduate who was steered to the program by Jones, said, “I never pictured myself in construction. However, it has changed my life tremendously. I’m very grateful for the BUD program. I’m glad Shaun and Daniel went through it first. It changed their life, changed my life and changed our lives.”
Barbara Huelsing-Evans, a graduate of the third BUD class, said she is constantly referring people to the program. Huelsing-Evans, who is not currently working in the trades but is employed at an inside job at a construction supplier, said, “BUD was — and is — a great pathway to a lasting career.”
HOW IT WORKS
During the five- to eight-week program, local unions open their training centers to give participants basic training and a feel for each of the trades.
Participating apprenticeship programs include:
- Bricklayers Local 1 Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
- St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council Apprenticeship Program
- Construction Craft Laborers Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1 Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
- Iron Workers Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
- Operating Engineers Local 513 Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
- Plumbers & Pipefitters Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
- Sheet Metal Workers Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
- Cement Masons Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
- Floor Layers Joint Apprenticeship Program
United Way and Metro provide participants with transportation and assistance with other needs that may be preventing them from getting or keeping a job.
BUD Program Director Russ Signorino cited a recent partnership with Lyft ride servie and financial literacy education and lending services from St. Louis Community Credit Union among the ongoing support programs available to BUD graduates. The United Way also helps connect those who require other assistance with the Fathers Support Center, Epworth Children and Family Services, CWIT (Center for Women in Transition) and Connections to Success.
John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council said, “None of this could be done without the people behind us – the United Way, the Laborers District Council, the Carpenters District Council – we’re all partners in this. It’s a testament to what they have done and what you have done. Refer people to us. When I get calls about the program, I tout the success. There’s still people out there who doubt what we’re trying to do, but the fact that everybody is here tonight is testament to what we have done.”
Pat Dolan, apprentice coordinator for the Missouri AFL-CIO credited Gaal, Jeff Aboussie (former secretary-treasurer of the Building Trades) and the business managers of the participating unions with getting the program started.
“They had the foresight and vision to get this going, to realize that we needed to change our way about coaching things in the industry and get more inclusion,” Dolan said. “And, obviously, it paid off.”
Jay Ozier, president of the St. Louis Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists left graduates with this bit of advice:
“There’s a thousand different ways that you can go with any one of these different trades. It takes a lot to make this construction we’re seeing happen. There’s a lot of different opportunities to make a contribution. And that will be a landmark when you pass by you can say, ‘That’s me over there. I did that.’ The number one thing is to take care of yourself and your family.”
BUD success by the numbers
Since starting in 2014, BUD has conducted 14 cohorts of program participants. As of October:
- 162 people started the program, with 142 completing – 88 percent.
- 120 hired into good-paying union-represented jobs – 85 percent.
- Minorities enrolled in the program – 83 percent.
- Women – 17 percent.
- Veterans – six percent.