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Building Futures Program Connecting Low-Income Residents to Careers in Skilled Trades

Friday, March 23, 2018
Contact: Jodi Andes, Franklin County Job and Family Services, 614/233-2116
Tyler Lowry, Commissioners, 614/525-6630

A new pipeline to train low-income workers for careers in the skilled building trades has 21 students graduating today in its inaugural class, marking completion of the first government/union trade program of its kind in Ohio.
The Building Futures pilot program was developed by officials from the Franklin County Board of Commissioners’, Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services, Franklin County Economic Development and Planning and the Columbus Building Trades to help low-income county residents transition into apprenticeship jobs that offer benefit packages. These apprenticeship jobs last for a couple of years as the workers transition into well-paid commercial skilled construction trades careers. The length of each apprenticeship varies by trade.
Several of the 21 graduates are already working in their chosen field.  Students in this class elected to work in electrical, carpentry, iron worker, labor, and/or plumber and pipefitters.
“This pilot program is accomplishing exactly what we set out to do – link low-income residents to job tracks in skilled labor.  We are pleased with its success and are scheduling two more classes this year,” Board of Commissioners President Kevin L. Boyce said.
The program marks the first pre-apprenticeship program recognized and approved by the state that involves a collaborative partnership between unions and county commissioners.
The Franklin County Commissioners say the graduates will help meet the booming demand in construction that the county has been experiencing.
“Jobs in the skilled trades are pathways to the middle class for so many families,” Commissioner Marilyn Brown said. “These graduates will have the opportunity to move into well-paying jobs that lift families up and provide them with a sustainable path forward. This is the type of innovative partnership that more local communities need to embrace.”
Impact Community Action worked with the trades to provide the Building Futures training, which included soft skills, such as skills assessment, teamwork and interpersonal skills training.  Then students moved on to safety certification and construct-specific literacy, math and trade instruction, which was provided by the Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council.
Students were also provided mentorship, comprehensive case management and were paid a stipend over the course of nine weeks.
“Four students who are entering apprenticeship programs as electricians started work at job sites this week. Three students who will focus in iron work are expected to start work Monday. And other students have start dates in the near future,” Commissioner John O’Grady said. “This is an exciting program that other areas of the country are watching.”
Franklin County is expected to have continued construction opportunities. The county broke ground in late 2017 on a new corrections center, a project that is expected to employ more than 800 construction workers at its peak, and will be starting construction of a new Forensic Science Center this year. 
The commissioners are working hard, including via a Construction Inclusion Team made up of members from the community, construction experts, union representatives, and community activists, to help ensure high levels of participation among groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the construction trades, including minorities, women, immigrants, veterans, and members of the LGBT community.
“The Building Trades is excited to partner with Impact and Franklin County to provide career opportunities in the Building Trades for members of our community that will place them on a direct path to the middle class,” said Dorsey Hager, Executive Secretary, Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council.
The Building Futures program was contracted through the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services (JFS), which is overseeing the program.
“A job can provide stability, but a career in the skilled trades provides long-term sustainability.  We are proud to be a partner in the Franklin County Building Futures program as we create career pathways and real opportunities for families to thrive,” said Robert “Bo” Chilton, CEO of IMPACT Community Action.
Franklin County JFS is a county, state and federally-supported agency responsible for basic financial, medical and social service programs. These programs are made available to ensure that no one is forced to go without the basic essentials of food, clothing, shelter, medical care and necessary life sustaining services because of a lack of resources.