Connecting Low-Income Workers with Middle-Class Careers in Nashville

Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville with MC3 grad Joseph Kenyawia

For more than a century, America’s building trades unions have prepared workers for skilled, family-supporting jobs in the construction industry. Today these unions are preparing for a wave of retirements, and are recruiting a new generation of workers through a pre-apprenticeship program aimed at diversifying their ranks. In Nashville, the Catholic Labor Network has been teaming up with Catholic Charities and local parishes to move low-income workers into these high-wage jobs.

The pre-apprenticeship program known as the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (aka MC3) programs introduces those considering a career in construction to each of the trades in turn. Thanks to outreach work at area Masses by local CLN representative Aimee Shelide Mayer, four of the nine participants in the last MC3 class to precede the coronavirus lockdown were immigrants from Diocese of Nashville parishes — three from a large Hispanic congregation, Iglesia Sagrado Corazòn, and one from one of the oldest churches in the Diocese, Church of the Holy Name in East Nashville.

CLN’s Aimee Mayer joins the proud MC3 grads in February

At the close of the two-week program, all nine participants graduated with plans to enter the trade of their choice.  Graduation on February 7th was a joyous event.  Marisa Morales Perez from Sagrado Corazòn said in her address to the graduation attendees that she was there “for her siblings and her family,” and hoped that her aspired path with the Painters would help support her family so she would no longer have to work second shift.  Leo Martinez, also from Sagrado Corazòn, said he wanted to “show his children that anything is possible if you make the commitment.”  Leo had received electrical training in California before moving to Tennessee, but now—with the skills he learned with MC3—hopes to enter a full-time apprenticeship with the Electrical Workers.  Joseph Kenyawia, who moved to Nashville from Sudan twenty years ago and is a pillar of the Sudanese community at Holy Name, said that joining the Insulators Apprenticeship following graduation is his “opportunity to leave a firm foundation for [his] family.”

For now, coronavirus shutdowns are interfering with what is also known locally as MC3: Music City Construction Careers. CLN looks forward to additional recruitment when instruction resumes!