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Commissioners' Program Connects Low-Income Residents to Careers in Skilled Trades

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Jodi Andes, Job and Family Services, 614-233-2116
Tyler Lowry, Commissioners, 614-525-6630

The work force in Central Ohio will grow today with 17 new building trade apprentices, thanks to a continuing partnership between Franklin County and the Central Ohio building trades that prepares low-income workers for careers in the skilled trades where workers are in demand.

And nearly all of the Building Futures Pre-Apprenticeship Program graduates have a job waiting for them Monday. This is the second class to graduate from the pilot program.

Building Futures 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/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council to help low-income county residents transition into apprenticeship jobs that offer living wages and 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.

“This is so much more than a graduation. With this second class now entering the workforce, we have a proven pipeline to help low-income workers transition to middle class jobs that offer benefits and the promise of a better future,” Board of Commissioners President Kevin L. Boyce said.

The first Building Futures class graduated in March with 22 students, 17 of which are still working in the trades. One student was promoted at her job before graduating and did not enter the trades; four are no longer with the program.

 “We are so proud of the students’ early success,” Commissioner Marilyn Brown said. “We are looking at using this as a model to reach into our communities and develop other meaningful career pathways for some of our more vulnerable residents.”

The program marks the first pre-apprenticeship program recognized and approved by the state that involves a collaborative partnership between unions and county commissioners.  In addition, these graduates will help meet the booming demand in construction that the county has been experiencing.

“This is just one piece of our overall efforts to fight the problem of poverty in Franklin County,” John O’Grady said. “We know that one approach or one program cannot eradicate the disparities that have grown over time, but we are providing proven pathways that also fill employment demands of today.”

Impact Community Action works 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 are also provided comprehensive case management and paid a stipend during the 12 weeks of training. Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services oversees the program.

“We strive to provide transformational service to our customers so they can get the immediate help they need while working toward a future that allows them to break the cycle of poverty. Human services are changing in America and we want to continue to lead the way with programs like this that offer with compassion, hope and opportunity,” FCDJFS Director Joy Bivens said.

County officials anticipate an increase in private construction and have a few major government buildings in the work. Last year, Franklin County Department of Economic Development and Planning reported the county was experiencing and increase in construction permits and costs. The county also has two major projects in the works: a Forensic Science Center, which had a groundbreaking in September, and a new corrections center which was started last year.

A third Building Futures class is expected to start later this fall.