St. Louis BUD program graduates 30th class of pre-apprentices

Missouri Correspondent

CELEBRATING SUCCESS – The St. Louis BUD program celebrated the graduation of its 30th class on Aug. 18. Taking part in the ceremony were (front row, from left)  BUD graduates Tjuan Thompson and John Mitchell; (center row, from left) Teriff Jefferson-Bey, Malik Holmes, BUD Program Coordinator Aurora Bihler, Michaela Harris, Curtis Henderson, Zaria Tucker, Keith Hendrix and Riley Shelley; (back row from left) Missouri Works Initiative Executive Director Megan Price, Nicholas Barnhart, Missouri Works Initiative summer intern Adam Mertens, James Harris, Elijah Mayweather, James Wright and Nkosi Jones. Graduates not in the photo include Dajonn Blanchard and Declan Valentine. – Labor Tribune photo

Forty-year-old James Wright is looking forward to a bright career in union construction after taking part in the St. Louis Building Union Diversity program.

Wright, who was part of the program’s 30th cohort, has always been good with his hands and has worked in the landscaping business over the last few years. Now, he’s considering a career as a union bricklayer.

“I’d recommend this program to anyone,” Wright told the Labor Tribune. “It’s a great place to make connections and get your feet wet. The staff is willing to work with you and Aurora Bihler is a good teacher. She really goes out on a limb for you.”

Bihler, a member of Iron Workers Local 396, serves as the St. Louis BUD program coordinator. The six-week program was created in 2014 by the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council as a recruitment tool to encourage more minorities and women to get into the union building trades.

Today, the award-winning program is run by the Missouri AFL-CIO’s Missouri Works Initiative and boasts a 92 percent graduation rate. It provides pre-apprentices with the opportunity for a visit at participating local building trade unions to give them hands-on basic training and a feel for each of the trades.

The graduation ceremony was held Aug. 18 at Iron Workers Local 396 in St. Louis with parents and friends of the graduates and Labor leaders in attendance. Sixteen pre-apprentices graduated from the 30th cohort.

Jake Hummel, Missouri AFL-CIO and Missouri Works Initiative president, said now is a great time to get into the construction industry.

BRIGHT FUTURE – James Wright, who took part in the BUD program’s 30th cohort, tries his hand at bricklaying. Wright, who has always been good with his hands, is now considering a career as a union bricklayer. – Missouri Works Initiative photo

“You are starting at an exciting time,” Hummel said to the graduates. “There are millions of dollars in construction work coming up with the recent Infrastructure Act. In fact, it’s the highest amount of construction work that I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

Recognized as a comprehensive apprenticeship readiness program (ARP) by North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), BUD offers enrollees a comprehensive 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. The program is offered at no charge to selected individuals who meet the admission requirements.

For more information on the BUD program, visit


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