This Monday, 25 residents of the Farnam Court public housing project will enter a classroom and take the first step on a newly-created path to a career in construction work.
In a collaborative effort involving New Haven, Yale, and local unions, a new career development program at Farnam Court will bring in experienced workers from local unions to introduce housing residents to various building trades. After eight weeks of classroom and hands-on instruction in everything from basic carpentry to wiring, graduates may be able to apply for apprenticeships — offering them a new opportunity to start pursuing possible careers in construction.
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Nichole Jefferson, the executive director of the New Haven Commission on Equal Opportunities, said the program will provide participants with valuable skills that they can take with them to a specialized profession.
“The mission is to give people an opportunity they normally wouldn’t have so they can have a career in construction and retire with dignity,” she said. “These are not jobs; they are careers.”
Residents who are accepted into the program will participate in classes and hands-on training for approximately eight weeks, Jefferson said. Only about 25 residents will begin classes this Monday, she said, but three other batches, for a total of about 100 residents, will participate later in the year.
The students will begin the program on the first day with classes on math, blueprints and safety, said Gerry Fucci, the business agent of Local 777 Plumbers and Pipefitters union, one of the five participating unions. The students will soon work hands-on at projects to rehabilitate housing under the Housing Authority. If participants are interested in a particular trade after completing the program and have proven to be responsible, they may apply to the unions for full apprenticeships, which last several years, Fucci said.
Fucci said the program is beneficial to both the students and the trade unions because it allows the participants to become familiar with what building work actually entails while developing skills even before beginning an apprenticeship with one of the unions.
“A lot of people when they start don’t realize a lot about construction,” he said. “This gives them a heads-up before they make that commitment.”
Still, apprenticeships can be quite competitive, Local 777 training coordinator Frank DaCato said. Last July, approximately 100 people applied for apprenticeships, but only 38 were accepted, he said. But Fucci said he expects the program will help the union find well-qualified candidates.
The five participating unions represent carpenters, painters and tapers, plumbers and pipefitters, laborers, and electricians. Each of the trades will provide instructors, said Frank Halloran, president and business agent of the electricians’ union IEBW Local 90. Jefferson said the program is unprecedented in that several unions are collaborating to train people who are not union members.
Jefferson said the program is part of the Construction Workforce Initiative 2, which is aimed at increasing opportunities in construction careers, particularly for minorities and women.
“We put to work over 1,000 minorities statewide and 185 women and over 500 New Haven residents,” she said. “And many of them are working at Yale University job sites [and] work in New Haven on school construction.”
Associate Vice President of the Office of New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 said Yale also plays a role in the initiative through its construction efforts, which require many workers in these trades.
“Good jobs exist, and there will be even more in the future and the key variable is having a pipeline of motivated and trained people,” Morand said. “This program will help give more neighbors the opportunity to access the employment that Yale’s construction makes available.”
Only Farnam Court residents over the age of 18 will be able to participate in the program.