Our unions are steadily moving towards our goal of building a diverse workforce that reflects the makeup of Boston neighborhoods. One key initiative is the Building Pathways program, which graduated its 17th class of apprentices, with a ceremony at Sheet Metal Workers Local 17. The program, which recently moved to Roxbury, offers a stepping stone to apprenticeships for those who may have felt shut out.
“The building trades represent a great opportunity for Boston’s young people,” MetroBTC General Agent Brian Doherty said. “We have to keep working to break down barriers so every young person who wants to join the building trades has an equal chance.”
Building Pathways is a six-week pre-apprenticeship program that gives women and young people of color a taste of a variety of trades. Graduates then go on to apply to the apprenticeship program that most interests them. One of the 15 graduates has already secured a job with Sprinkler Fitters Local 550 at a JC Cannistraro site.
“Our goal is to provide a family-sustaining career that not only leads to economic empowerment for our participants, but to also bolster the communities where they live and where we do our work,” Building Pathways Executive Director Mary Vogel said. “The key is education and exposure for young people who had never considered a career in the trades.”
The BP program offers classes in construction math and labor history as well as exposure to real-life work experience through site visits to unions and job sites. Another chief purpose of the program is to instill the high-quality work ethic necessary to succeed in any of the building trades.
“If you are on time, you are late,” Boston Housing Authority Administrator Bill McGonagle said. “But for those willing to work hard, as you all have done, you are well on your way to a six-figure union career in the trades.”
The newly-minted apprentices are excited about what the future holds, following this career jumpstart.
“Each one of us came from different backgrounds, different childhoods, different parents, different locations, but we all shared a common goal. A goal to change our lives for the better,” graduate Michael Robinson said. “We finally get a chance to prove ourselves, no matter our race, gender, height, or hair color. And through this process, I think each one of us achieved this goal.”
The program has garnered widespread support from government agencies, including the Division of Apprenticeship Standards, the Office of Apprenticeship at the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the City of Boston Workforce Development Program, the Mass Gaming Commission and the UMass Building Authority.
Funding for the program includes a $3 million, 5-year grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, secured by Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration. Additionally, the BP program receives financial support from the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, the Mass. DOT, the BPDA, and the AG’s office.
The program has also attracted the attention of the construction industry, which has offered financial and in-kind support. Representative of companies including Skanska and Suffolk Construction attended this most recent graduation.
The BP program has graduated a total of 233 apprentices since its launch in 2011. The demographic makeup of graduates includes 74 percent people of color and 31 percent women.