In many cities in the United States, the building trades unions are experiencing an acute shortage of candidates, particularly women and minorities, for their apprenticeship schools. For low-income workers, entering a union apprenticeship program can be life changing for them and their family. These trades offer excellent wages, healthcare, retirement and most importantly a stable job for low-income workers that experience insecurity and gripping poverty that is extremely difficult to overcome.
In Washington DC, a program run by the local AFL-CIO labor council has been working to solve this problem by training and placing low-income DC residents in apprenticeship programs and construction jobs. The six-week program trains participants in the basic skills they need to start a construction career such as OSHA and construction math while also offering the soft skills needed to get a job such as interviewing and resume writing. Woven throughout the classroom time are opportunities to visit and experience DC area union apprenticeship programs to give students a sense of the different trades available to them. To help students overcome the barriers to full time employment that are endemic in the poorest neighborhoods of the city, Building Futures offers wrap around social services to insure students are ready to go to work at the end of the six weeks.
If students are interested in a particular trade, the program helps them understand and navigate the apprenticeship application process and facilitates them entering the trade. For students that are not quite ready to commit to a trade, the program works with employers to place students in high wage jobs. Even after graduation and placement, students can always come back to the program for job placement assistance.