Dan Clark: As we talk about housing, we're also talking about jobs. There's a lot of talk at the state Capitol right now about New York's economic recovery. Economists agree that a major part of that recovery will be connecting more people with jobs.
In this story we tell you about a recent program growing in New York that's trying to do just that. It's part of our ongoing series focused on New York's workforce called Work in Progress.
S1: I started a residential construction company, you know, really small and as I was growing it was really, really hard to find help. It's always been a big issue to find get help, but to find help that looked like me was almost impossible.
Dan Clark: For Patrick LaFortune, finding people to work at his construction company, especially people of color in the industry, was difficult. Now MAPP Inc, the Multi-Craft Apprenticeship Preparation Program, is helping to fill the gap in skilled labor and diversify the workforce.
The program started in Rochester to provide opportunity to people who have historically been underrepresented in the building and construction trades. Since then, the program has been expanding across the state. Kereem Berry is the executive director of MAPP Inc.
Kereem Berry: I think the reason why it’s really needed now, the workforce is basically retiring and just for lack of a better term, dying off. So, there's a huge gap there as far as talent is concerned in the workforce. So, they have to do recruiting because people now don't really want to work with their hands. Everyone is more keyboard based.
DC: Crickett Thomas-O'Dell is the statewide apprenticeship coordinator at Workforce Development Institute. WDI is a statewide nonprofit that focuses on the growth and retention of good jobs in New York, providing workforce training and education services. She's hoping these programs can make the trades more inclusive.
Crickett Thomas-O'Dell: Our main objective with this whole statewide pre-apprentice program is to make sure that we have a representative workforce when it comes to women and people of color. My focus is on the building construction trades, but apprenticeships can be held in health, manufacturing, the cannabis industry which is emerging, all these opportunities that allow people to not only become more aware of what's available when it comes to workforce, but also to be a part of it and to earn while you learn. I mean, what better model?
In Europe they have been doing apprenticeship programs for a long time.
DC: One of the benefits of the pre-apprentice program is it creates direct entry into the building and construction trade unions. Leveling the playing field by providing participants with the skills needed to start an apprenticeship.
CTO: The concern is always in terms of are you going to involve the people who live here or is this going to again, skirt around us and not include us? We are breaking down that barrier of it being who you know to get into the unions.
DC: Mike Lyons, president of the Greater Capital Region Building Trades, wanted to bring the program to Albany to help supply workers for some major construction projects. One of them is at the Port of
Albany, where Beacon Island is being transformed into an offshore wind equipment facility. MAPP was brought to the south end of Albany to create a job pipeline for that site.
To further cement their place in the project, Lyons negotiated a project labor agreement that allows funds to go back into MAPP.
Mike Lyons: So, anybody as a signatory to the project labor agreement, there's a five cent per hour contribution that'll go directly to the building trades and then directly to MAPP so they can expand, get more participants, and get more resources to be more successful.
DC: In recent years, the trades have struggled with recruitment due to an emphasis from some on earning a college degree. Thomas-O'Dell wants to dismiss the myth that college is the only way to find a good career.
CTO: You know, we're told that college is the only way you're going to be successful when that's not true. You can be highly successful, have family sustaining wages, and not have to go to college. The pre-apprenticeship program allows you to explore all those different types of careers that are there when it comes to building construction trades to figure out which one you like best.
Josemarie Montanez: During high school, I wasn't a big fan of going to college because I didn't know what I wanted to major in or have a degree in. I want to be an electrician. So going to the electrical union is my passion right now. After this program is over I want to create my own business and bring it out to where I grew up which is in the Bronx, and provide my resources that I've learned and skills out to the community over there and help re-build.
DC: For some, they’re interested in changing careers to find work that compensates them better and has flexibility. Elia Jackson is also a student in MAPP Albany.
Elia Jackson: I want to be amazing. My job wasn't paying enough and I didn't really care for the jobs that I was doing anymore and I wanted to change. I found out about the pay. I was like, oh, yeah, you got me, and then the benefits that come with it is awesome.
DC: Not only are pre-apprentices setting up a future for themselves, they are also giving back to the community. In Project Phoenix, the first phase of MAPP, students learn through hands on experience by renovating a home donated by the local land bank so it can be given back to the community. Homeownership will help spur on the economy of the whole region, says Berry from MAPP.
KB: If you empower people economically, that empowers the entire community economically, because those residents are going to spend money where they live. So, the neighborhood stores are going to benefit, the tax rolls in Albany are going to benefit because now these same people are able to actually go and purchase homes. They now have the skills to repair their homes.
We teach accountability to the community. So, it's not going to be a thing of flight. They're going to see, well, I can now repair my home, stay here, clean up and just show a different quality of life to everyone else.
DC: Thanks to producer Catherine Rafferty for that story. That report is part of WMHT's ongoing series looking at job seeking throughout life called Work in Progress.
Work in Progress is funded by WDI, the Workforce Development Institute.
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