After benefitting from a pre-apprentice program, Renee Renn is paying it forward ten-fold
By SHERI GASSAWAY
Like many college students, Renee Renn changed her mind on her major several times while attending her local community college and Portland State University. She was interested in engineering, but was unsure which field would be best for her.
After spending two years at the state university, she ran out of money to pay for college.
Fortunately, she learned about a free pre-apprentice program offered through Oregon Tradeswomen, a program similar to the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council’s Building Union Diversity (BUD) program (See related story on this page).
She attended classes three days a week for two months. In that time, she was introduced to a variety of union trades, visited their training centers and learned firsthand the work each trade entailed.
In just eight weeks, Renn was able to accomplish what she hadn’t in the years she spent at college: she nailed down her career path as a sheet metal worker.
“The trade lined up with what I was studying in college, and after the program, I applied for a sheet metal worker apprenticeship,” Renn said. “The pre-apprenticeship program experience was invaluable to me.”
Renn eventually moved to St. Louis and is now a second-year apprentice at Sheet Metal Workers Local 36. She works at Integrated Facility Service in Fenton, primarily on the commercial construction side.
With the help she received and the knowledge she gained, Renn is now helping others. She serves on the executive boards of Missouri Women in Trades (MoWIT) and the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society (WES), and serves as a mentor for graduates of the BUD program.
MoWIT is a non-profit dedicated to expanding opportunities for women to enter and succeed in apprenticeships and careers in the St. Louis area building and construction trades.
WES provides education and training for St. Louis residents – especially people of color, women and youth – to become community leaders, with a focus on the intersection of workers’ rights, racial justice, sexual and gender-minority rights and disabilities empowerment.
Renn is also taking part in a six-month program offered through Local 36 to learn more about the union and organizing, and to help in youth recruitment efforts.
“I like to be involved in activism and to help others,” Renn said. “For anyone considering a career in the trades, I highly recommend applying for a pre-apprentice program like BUD. It really helps you figure out what trade would be best for you.”
MoWIT is located at WES headquarters located at 2929 S. Jefferson Ave. in St. Louis. For more information, visit mowit.org.
To learn more about WES, visit workerseducationsociety.org.
BUD program making strides helping minorities,
women find lifelong careers in the building trades
87 percent of the program’s graduates successfully placed in construction jobs
For minority and female workers considering careers in the construction trades, the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council’s Building Union Diversity (BUD) program can produce life-changing results, setting graduates on track for good paying careers in the building trades.
Launched in 2014 to bring more minority and female workers into the building and construction trades, BUD is 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.
Local unions open their training centers for the pre-apprentices during the five- to eight-week program to give them basic training and a feel for each of the trades. United Way and Metro also help, providing participants with transportation and assistance with other needs that may be preventing them from getting or keeping a job.
BUD Program Director Russ Signorino said 128 students have graduated from the program. Of those, 111 –– 87 percent –– are now working in the building and construction trades.
Of the 14 classes graduated since the program launched, Signorino said 81 percent of students were minorities and 19 percent were women.
The students, or pre-apprentices, who complete the program are honored with a graduation ceremony attended by local contractors with job openings and union representatives. The graduates, armed with new resumes and certificates of completion, have the opportunity to interview on-the-spot, often leave signed up for an apprenticeship program and working in the industry.
Anyone interested in participating in a future BUD class should contact SLATE at (314) 657-3545.