Hiring rate is over 80 percent
By CARL GREEN
St. Louis – Helping determined young people find a place in today’s union workforce is a vital effort that goes on in the St. Louis region every day and makes a major difference for both workers and employers.
The latest evidence for this came last week at the graduation of the 10th class of pre-apprentices in the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council’s Building Union Diversity (BUD) program.
Ten ready to work students completed the five-week pre-apprentice program, and if past experience is any indication, most if not all of them will soon be working in good jobs.
And they will be needed.
“The company owners are realizing that in the future, it’s going to take all of us to build these projects,” said Dr. John Gaal, director of training and workforce development for the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, in presenting the graduates.
“It’s going to be very important that more and more people of color and more and more women come to the trades and get trained for the work over the next 20 to 30 years.”
The graduation event was held Aug. 16 at the AGC Construction Training School in the Knox Industrial Park in St. Louis.
The students visited the training facilities of the IBEW, Carpenters, Cement Masons, Iron Workers and Floor Layers to explore the various trades and get feel for the different crafts and now ready to begin their union apprenticeships, eligible for hire by union contractors.
READY AND WILLING
Pat Dolan, apprentice coordinator for the Missouri AFL-CIO, worked with the class and found them both ready and willing. It wasn’t just construction skills that they had to learn.
“It’s been a new experience for them,” Dolan told the Labor Tribune. “A lot of them have never had to be there early every morning and catch a train or a bus. Some of them will take a bus to get to the Metrolink and take a shuttle from there to the training center.
“So it’s a commitment. It’s a tribute to their desire to improve themselves, which is an opportunity the program affords to any of them.”
The program has been operating at a highly successful rate, with 80 percent of graduates finding jobs. Lately, that percentage has increased further to about 85 percent.
Dolan said the economy has had something to do with that. “Part of the reason for that is that when we started this program, there wasn’t that much work,” he said. “Since we’ve started, there are more job opportunities. Obviously, if they have the initiative, they’re going to get hired.”
Germald Mitchell, one of the program’s older participants, said he had previously worked as a police officer, fire fighter and truck driver.
“This is just something I was very much interested in doing, as far as learning how to build and repair houses, and so this is my avenue of reinventing myself,” he said after the ceremony, as the graduates mingled with representatives of construction companies.
“We worked on several things, including some things that we didn’t expect to work on,” he said in describing the program. “In carpentry, we built things such as a floor foundation. We also did some welding and tie-rods, the same things they do on a construction site when they’re building roads. We did concrete work, as if we were making a sidewalk for a street.
“We did pretty much everything that the trades do,” Mitchell added. “We had to experience it. We even walked across the street on a high beam – with a safety rope, of course. We got a taste for how it would feel, walking across the street at a high attitude.”
DREAMING OF CARPENTRY
Chris Deloch, a 2014 high school graduate from St. Louis, said he was impressed with the wide range of the training.
“We did electrical work like three-way switches, iron work like tie rods and rebar, carpenters’ work, floor layers’ work with resilient tile and ceramic wall tile and cement masons’ work.”
He said he hopes to become a floor layer or carpenter.
“As a carpenter, I could build my own stuff, and I wouldn’t have to call anybody to build my own things,” he said. “With floor layers’ work, I kind of did it on my own a little bit, helping my grandfather out, so I kind of know what to do.”
PROGRAM IN ITS THIRD YEAR
The BUD program was launched in 2014 to bring 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. United Way and Metro help participants with transportation.
To inquire about joining a future BUD class, contact SLATE at (314) 657-3545.