A Path for Dreamers in the Building Trades

Courtesy of Aimee Shelide Mayer

Covid disrupted all of our lives, but it has not stopped the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, the area Building Trades Unions, and the Catholic Labor Network from continuing to offer the two-week apprenticeship readiness program known locally as Music City Construction Careers (MC3).  Since the onset of the program in Nashville, seven cohorts have passed through this rigorous, 120-hour curriculum to graduate and enter family-supporting jobs with the area’s building trades.

Two new stars of the program are nineteen-year-old twins Jeremy and Denaro Rios, parishioners at St. Edward Catholic Church in Nashville and immigrants from Mexico. The twins not only graduated from the MC3 program but joined the Catholic Labor Network’s federal advocacy team on a call with Tennessee Senator Bill Hagerty’s office to urge the Senator to support immigration reform.

When the country moved to virtual meetings and communications, MC3 pivoted as well, offering online instruction with socially-distanced and safe in-person field trips to job sites and hands-on learning with tools, blueprints, and the course-required CPR/First Aid certification.  Instead of slowing down, construction in Middle Tennessee has ramped up during the pandemic and demand for construction workers continues to build.

The Rios twins were taking online classes through the University of Tennessee when they read about the MC3 opportunity in their church bulletin.  Together with their father, the three of them participated in the two-week program in November 2020.  Upon graduation, they selected the Bricklayers as their trade of choice. “For me and my brother, MC3 inspired us to do more than we would have imagined.  The opportunities and the knowledge you receive is amazing from learning about construction and the art of it.  It brought hope to me and my family to know that we can do something big and build paths in the future,” reflected Jeremy Rios on his MC3 experience.  As DACA recipients, the twins are eagerly awaiting updated work authorization paperwork to allow them to get on the job.

In the meantime, they worked with local CLN representative in Nashville, Aimee Shelide Mayer, to tell their inspirational story during a virtual legislative visit with Senator Bill Hagerty’s office in May, advocating for both the PRO Act and Immigration reform, particularly for dreamers like them seeking a dignified path and solid employment through the Building Trades Unions.