The issue/challenge: Work in the union construction industry has long been one of New York City’s most reliable pathways to becoming part of, and staying in, the middle class. The pathways for entering into these careers, however, are difficult to navigate and highly competitive. As a result, too few people from low-income communities succeed in entering these fields and many who do succeed in securing such positions end up leaving for a variety of reasons. P2A works with individuals, unions, and community organizations to address these issues.
Our work: P2A began its work as a formal organization in January 2016 with the Laborers Local 79 apprenticeship recruitment. P2A assisted 67 candidates, referred by local community organizations around New York City, who were from low-income communities and who did not have access to a computer. After 1 minute and 42 seconds, all 1000 interview spots were taken, and 32 of the 67 candidates assisted by P2A received interview spots. Of these 32 successful candidates, 24 candidates committed to attending the 8-week P2A pre-apprenticeship class. By July 2016, 15 of our class members had been accepted into and completed the Local 79 apprenticeship program and are now working.
When P2A was operated by a group of volunteers in the time prior to January 2016, P2A succeeded in assisting 35 candidates into the Local 79 apprenticeship program. We continue to hold P2A meetings and events for out these alumnae and, to date, two of these apprentices are now journey workers. A number of these P2A alumnae visited the January class to share their experiences and provide advice and mentorship to the new apprentices.
P2A also regularly disseminates information to community organization partners and individuals about other building trades apprenticeship openings, such as in the Iron workers, Cement Workers, Plumbers, and Carpenters. To date, P2A is assisting 15 people in application efforts for admission to these other building trades unions. In the recent Plumbers recruitment, for example, it was announced that 1000 applications would be distributed and people started forming a line outside of the Plumbers office on a rainy Saturday for a Monday morning opening. P2A succeeded in assisting 4 individuals to get applications with one of these individuals receiving application number 999.
The Laborers, Local 79 has scheduled its next recruitment for August 19, 2016. In preparation for this, P2A has been conducting info sessions at our community organization partners throughout New York City and is arranging for computer assistance for people would not otherwise be able to apply. In the following week, P2A will begin a new 8-week pre-apprenticeship class.
In our 8-week class, we teach candidates about the New York City construction industry, required work habits and basic workforce skills, financial literacy and money management, conflict resolution strategies, and more. In addition, we review the history and role of labor unions in the construction industry and the benefits and expectations of union membership. We have found that discussions about these issues help prospective workers be successful in the union building trades industry.
What makes P2A different from other workforce-development programs is that we help people get, and remain in, actual union apprenticeships that lead to sustainable careers. Also, our work furthers the expressed goal of the union construction industry to become more diverse and welcoming to people of all backgrounds. P2A works with a number of community organizations throughout New York City and there is no other community organization in New York City that is doing this work.
We were gratified to learn that the community organization, Community Voices Heard, will be honoring us with its Lights of Freedom award on October 18, 2016.