Almeida, Abney, Metts visit construction trades program Building Futures prepares low-income Rhode Islanders for jobs in expanding field

STATE HOUSE – Putting Rhode Islanders back to work has been one of the General
[cid:image004.jpg@01D17F87.097E9C20] Assembly’s key goals in recent years.
Sen. Harold M. Metts, Rep. Joseph S. Almeida and Rep. Marvin L. Abney last week
visited a program that is supporting that mission by preparing low-income Rhode
Islanders for skilled jobs in the construction industry.
Building Futures operates a pre-apprenticeship program in Providence to help meet
the construction industry’s need for skilled workers through the Registered
Apprenticeship system, while providing opportunities for low-income urban residents
of Rhode [IN PHOTO: Rep. Marvin L. Abney, Rep. Joseph S. Almeida and Sen. Harold M.
Metts visit Building Futures in Providence March 10.] Island to gain
family-sustaining careers within the building and construction trades.
It forges innovative and effective partnerships with industry leaders and
stakeholders to expand entry-level opportunities in the construction trades. Through
the Skilled Trades Employment Program (STEP) of the Department of Transportation
(RIDOT), Building Futures has trained152 minorities and women for employment on
RIDOT projects over the past five years, helping the state to achieve its equitable
hiring goals. Overall, Building Futures has placed 192 graduates into employment as
registered apprentices in 12 different construction trades, with a 94-percent
retention rate through the first year of employment and 80 percent since inception.
The program also offers opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals whose
records are often a roadblock for employment; 53 percent of the graduates placed by
the program were previously incarcerated. The three legislators recently visited the
program’s offices and training facilities in Olneyville to learn more about the
program and the opportunities it is creating for low-income Rhode Islanders.
«Preparing people and helping to connect them to the jobs that are available is a
huge service to my community. Economic recovery tends to come slowest to the
communities that need it most, and it’s great to see a program that helps people get
not only the preparation and skills they need to get a job in a trade that’s
growing, but also helps them get their foot in the door when they’re ready,» said
Representative Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence).
The legislators’ interest in the program was piqued by the anticipation of job
growth in the local construction industry as a result of RhodeWorks, the state plan
to repair hundreds of deficient and deteriorating bridges and roads around the state
in the next eight years. The plan is expected to create an estimated 6,000
construction jobs.
«The growth in the construction trade represents an opportunity for many Rhode
Islanders to better support themselves and their families. It’s very encouraging to
see a program that reaches out to the poor, minorities and women to make sure they
can take advantage of these opportunities. As these doors open, it’s important to
make sure they open to everybody, particularly people of color, the poor and those
who have traditionally been left behind when there are opportunities to be had,»
said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence). «This program also reduces recidivism by
giving individuals a second chance through gainful employment.»
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics provided by Building Futures, the workforce
in Rhode Island’s construction industry has been aging. In 1995, 73 percent of the
industry’s workforce was under 45, but in 2015 half the workforce was 45 or over. So
in addition to new jobs created by construction, the trade will also need new
workers as people leave the industry.
Helping the workforce match the needs of the industry is helpful for workers and
employers, as well as the state, the legislators said.
«More people working in better jobs, more employers finding workers in Rhode Island
with the skills they require, and more families who are able to sustain themselves,
live in safe homes and buy the things they need at local businesses are exactly what
our economy needs,» said Representative Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown). «A
rising tide can better lift all boats if you give the ones in the shallows a little
tug out first.»