Missouri Works Initiative, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis team up to offer skilled trades exploration program to local teens

Assistant Editor

NINETEEN STUDENTS are taking part in a new program to introduce, train and connect them to high-paying, rewarding careers in the St. Louis union building trades thanks to Missouri AFL-CIO’s Missouri Works Initiative, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis’ Teen Center for Excellence, Associated General Contractors of St. Louis and several regional construction companies.
– Tracy Hykes/St. Louis Building Union Diversity program

Ferguson, MO – A group of local teens is taking part in a new program to introduce, train and connect them to high-paying, rewarding careers in the St. Louis union building trades.

The Skilled Trades Exploration Program (STEP) is a collaborative effort between the Missouri AFL-CIO’s Missouri Works Initiative (MWI), Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis’ Teen Center for Excellence, Associated General Contractors of Missouri and several regional construction companies.

The eight-week course for teens 16 to 18 is modeled after the highly successful St. Louis Building Union Diversity (BUD) program offered through the MWI. Students visit several union apprenticeship centers, get hands-on experience in each trade, complete safety training and earn industry-recognized credentials.

“It’s been an absolute delight working with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis,” said MWI Executive Director Megan Price. “They are experts in working with youth, and we are experts in the construction industry and the hard skills that go along with that. We’re hoping we’ll be able to offer the program next year as well.”

The STEP program is offered through the Teen Center for Excellence’s St. Louis Internship Program (SLIP) where students are paid to complete the course. The teen center, located in Ferguson, Mo., serves all teens ages 12-18, giving them a safe and prolific place to go each day after school and during the summer.

“Our workforce strategy continues to focus on strengthening the diverse talent pipeline for our region and that’s exactly what the Missouri Works Initiative’s St. Louis BUD program does,” said Shanise Johnson, executive directive of career and workforce readiness for SLIP. “There are 19 students in the STEP program out of 59 applicants so there was definitely a lot of interest.”

Johnson added that upon completion of the STEP program, students who have graduated high school and are at least 18 years old will be able to work directly through the MWI to secure access to employment through skilled trades apprenticeships.

The BUD program was created in 2014 by the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council as a recruitment tool to encourage more minorities, women and veterans to get into the union building trades. The MWI took over the program in 2022 and expanded it as the Missouri Apprentice Ready program in the Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield areas of Missouri.

The MWI also implemented the program at St. Mary’s High School in St. Louis at the start of this school year as the first program of its kind for high school students in Missouri. Participation counts toward two consecutive elective classes and consists of 120 hours.

The program is recognized as a comprehensive Apprenticeship Readiness Program (ARP) by the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU), and offers enrollees an introduction to construction employment by using NABTU’s nationally recognized Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) providing relevant national skills certification training, with a particular focus on job safety.

In addition to career and life skills training, the BUD program offers:

• Supportive services.
• Transportation assistance.
• Mentoring from trade professionals.
• A weekly stipend.
• Work gear (safety glasses, hard hat, high visibility shirts, pants, boots).
• Tool allowance upon placement into a registered apprenticeship program.
• Trade placement advising.

The St. Louis program, offered at no charge to select individuals who meet the admission requirements, has a 92 percent graduation rate and holds four cohorts each year. For more information on the BUD program, visit moworksinitiative.org.

For more information on the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, go to bgcstl.org.

Boys & Girls Club of the Heartland bringing Regional Workforce Development Teen Center to Poplar Bluff

AN ARTIST’S RENDERING of the Regional Workforce Development Teen Center in Poplar Bluff, Mo. that is expected to be completed by summer 2025.

Poplar Bluff, MO – For nearly 25 years, Boys & Girls Club (BGC) of the Heartland has relied on the generosity of the Poplar Bluff R-1 School District for space to host its after school and summer programs. After two decades of service to thousands of impoverished school-aged students, the organization will finally have its own place to call home.

Design-builder Integrate Construction Partners has teamed with Lawrence Group Architects for the design and construction of the organization’s new Regional Workforce Development Teen Center adjacent to Poplar Bluff High School in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Symbolically referred to as a beacon of hope, the 33,250-square-foot facility will be located on a hilltop overlooking the intersection of Interstate 57 and Highway 67.

The unique location will allow easy access for students from more than 20 area high schools in Missouri and Northeast Arkansas participating in the organization’s Workforce Development Initiative. The job readiness program prepares students for their future careers through the development of critical employment skills and training and experiential learning, plus an opportunity to earn college credits.

Incorporated in 1999, the club has grown from two school-based sites and 60 members to nine locations throughout Poplar Bluff, Neelyville and Malden, helping over 650 youth daily to have a safe and positive place to go after school. BGC focuses on academics, healthy lifestyles, good character and citizenship, fostering positive relationships with adults, and providing opportunities for new experiences and a place to make new friends.

“Our mission is to enable all young people, especially the ones that need us the most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens,” said Robbie Toth, BGC chief operating officer. “This new facility is not just a building; it’s a place where youth can feel rooted and have a sense of ownership and belonging. Creating a safe and supportive environment is vital for youth to thrive, make memories, complete programming and finally have a place they can call their own. We are excited to start this journey and partnership with Integrate Construction Partners and Lawrence Group.”

The Integrate/Lawrence Group team was selected from seven RFQ respondents who were then shortlisted to four design-build teams vying for the project. Integrate and Lawrence Group’s team developed a great rapport with BGC during the onboarding process and was able to accommodate nearly all the organization’s requested design features within the $10 million budget.

To accommodate the organization’s mission, the new facility will contain a full-size gymnasium, recreation and office area, and classroom wing, along with the following features:

  • STEM lab and workshop.
  • Computer lab.
  • Game/rec room.
  • Café and full commercial kitchen.
  • Playground.
  • Garden and greenhouse.
  • Conference/boardroom.
  • Consolidated administrative area with offices, breakroom and staff workspaces.

Integrate is expected to break ground on the new center in July 2024, with an estimated completion date in summer 2025.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top