Building Union Diversity (BUD) program seeking mentors to help new apprentices get a good start



The Building Union Diversity (BUD) program has been extremely successful growing the participation of women and people of color in the building and construction trades. The next step is making sure these new apprentices have the support they need to navigate their new careers.

The United Way of Greater St. Louis is coordinating the BUD Mentor Program to help recruit and retain new apprentices.

United Way Labor Liaison Sonja Gholston-Byrd said mentors need to:
• Be employed in the building trades.
• Attend an orientation and pairing day with mentees.
• Meet twice a month with mentee for at least five months.

“The program is set up based on having mentoring on the job, learning the functionality of Labor unions and getting on the job assistance to help them get acclimated and started on the right foot on the job,” Gholston-Byrd said.

If you’re interested in making a difference by helping new BUD apprentices, contact Gholston-Byrd at, or call 314-539-4192.

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 women and people of color 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, with contractors often hiring the new apprentices on the spot.

The program, which recently graduated its 16th class, has been a tremendous success, boasting an 82 percent employment rate for participants who complete the training. Apprentice wages start at $14-$18 an hour.

From the program’s inception 2014 through May 2019:
• 201 people have entered the program.
• 186 (92 percent) completed the five- to eight-week pre-apprenticeship training.
• 151 (82 percent) have landed good paying jobs with union contractors.

Those who have enrolled in and completed the program include:
• Minorities – 85 percent.
• Women – 21 percent.
• Veterans – seven percent.

BUD is currently accepting applications for its next class.

Requirements to participate include a WorkKeys skills assessment test score at Level 5 or above, at WorkKeys Workplace Documents (reading and comprehension) Level 5 or above, a high school diploma or equivalent, passing a drug test and having access to a vehicle upon program completion.

To apply, contact BUD Program Director Russ Signorino at or call 314-303-6082.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here