The building trades workforce in Franklin County will continue to grow in size and diversity thanks to a pledged commitment from the Franklin County Commissioners today to expand a unique pre-apprenticeship program for another year.
The Building Futures program, as it is more widely known, had 11 additional students graduate today, bringing the total to 50 workers who have been given training to move from low-income jobs to sustainable careers in the building trades where craftsmen/women are in demand. All 11 graduates have been offered jobs; some will begin work tomorrow, others will start in the coming weeks.
It was during today’s ceremony that the Franklin County Commissioners pledged to commit to the pilot program for another year.
“Franklin County created the Building Futures program because we believed that every resident deserves a brighter future,” Board of Commissioners President Marilyn Brown told the graduates. “Your success proves to Franklin County how investing in people can bring about incredible results. We have seen students who came into this program homeless or lacking access to transportation, and many who were struggling to pay rent by working multiple, low-wage jobs. Today they are making a good living as apprentice electricians, plumbers, and carpenters at building sites helping Franklin County grow- and now you will too.”
The commitment came amid newly released figures that showed Franklin County saw a record year in building permits last year. More than 3,072 building permits were issued and more than $115 million spent on residential improvement projects in Franklin County - an 11 percent increase from the previous years. (This total is for Franklin County building permits only. Municipalities, like Columbus and area suburbs report their building permits separately.)
The Commissioners pledged to continue the pilot program for another year so that at least two more classes will be funded. Building Futures started in late 2017, prior to the county’s launching a collaborative effort with school officials, nonprofit and business leaders and residents to reduce poverty in Franklin County. And throughout that poverty initiative, the need for programs like Building Futures and Healthcare Futures ( Read more here.) has been repeatedly raised by participants.
“It is one of the common themes we have heard. Programs like these that give low-income workers the skilled job training they need and assistance to move beyond barriers is proving to be one of the best ways we can help families rise together,” Commissioner John O’Grady said. “I welcome the idea of having more Building Futures classes and I think you will see this is just one of the ways in which we are taking what we have learned from the poverty initiative and applying it to county policy in hopes of bringing meaningful change.”
The high rate of graduates’ success is evidence the program is working and benefits not only the participants, but the county as a whole.
“The Building Trades’ and Impact’s work, along with students’ high retention rate are two of the reasons we keep getting asked about this program by commissioners from across the country,” Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce said. “Almost all of the students who completed this program continue to work in the trades. Of the few who don’t now work in the trades, some went on to college or were promoted in another field, which is also a success. We are proud of what they all have accomplished and look forward to others following in their footsteps.”
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 entities also supply the funding for the Building Futures program. Learn more here.
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.
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.
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 were 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.
“Throughout our work on the poverty initiative we have heard from families struggling to pay rent how important programs like this are. We want Franklin County residents to know we are listening to them. That is why the commissioners are so committed to seeing this program continue and we will continue to see how we can provide more transformational human services for Franklin County residents,” FCDJFS Director Joy Bivens said.