General Business

Diversity in Trades

Grants and programs support efforts to attract women and minorities to fill opportunities in construction trades.

In March, the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) announced two training grant awards to provide new employment opportunities to women seeking to enter the construction trades.

At the time of the announcement, Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo noted that women make up almost half of New Jersey’s workforce but less than 10 percent of the workforce in the construction industry, adding that “the Women in Construction Trades Grants give women, including veterans and ex-criminal offenders, the skills and support they need for good-paying, permanent employment.”

Elizabeth Development Co. will receive $240,000 to recruit and train women residing in Union and Essex counties, enabling them to gain access to apprenticeships in construction trade unions. The 35-plus women in the program will receive pre-apprenticeship training and a structured work experience emphasizing vocational skills. As a training partner of the nonprofit, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) will accept women who meet the qualifications as pre-apprentices.

Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters will receive $114,000 to conduct pre-apprenticeship training for roughly 24 disadvantaged and under-employed women. Successful completion of the program could lead to an apprenticeship with the carpenters union. The training will be delivered by the Northeast Carpenters Apprentice Training and Education Fund. The 12-month grant is funded by the New Jersey Builders Utilization Initiative for Labor Diversity (NJBUILD).

“Like most industries, the importance of reflecting the diversity of the communities we represent is instrumental in the success of any organization,” Anthony Abrantes, senior council representative and vice president of Local 254 points out. “So, when it comes to the construction trades, it’s no different. We need to do more to ensure we are recruiting the best and brightest in those communities.”

“There’s definitely a need to have more women and minorities in the construction trades,” Susan Schultz, council representative and director of the organization’s Sisters in the Brotherhood (SIB) Program, says. “With so many baby boomers retiring, we need to recruit a new cadre of craftspeople to step in and fill the gap. Our union needs to reflect the changing demographics of our country. This has to include recruiting increasing numbers of women in our union.

“I am proud of the work that we – the KML Carpenters and the Sisters in the Brotherhood Program – have done to attract more women into our union,” Schultz adds.

The Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey (ACCNJ) coordinates and helps sponsor an annual Construction Industry Career Day to promote careers in construction. It’s a huge endeavor, the biggest in the state, attracting 3,000 visitors in 2018 to the free event at the New Jersey Expo Center in Edison, including students, parents, jobseekers, veterans and educators from all 21 New Jersey counties.

ACCNJ and its partners sponsor the Career Day to attract people not only into the trade unions, but also into construction management. Area colleges and universities that offer construction-related degrees are represented at the event. Graduates have the skill sets to enter construction on the management side.

Visitors try their hand at the various trades, carefully watched by skilled training directors, journey workers and apprentices of New Jersey’s construction trade unions. ACCNJ’s labor partners from the Bricklayers, Carpenters, Ironworkers, Laborers and Operating Engineers are all represented and generously contribute to the event, along with many other trades.

“Young men and women, no matter what their background, can create a successful career in the construction trades,” affirms Jill Schiff, ACCNJ’s executive director of operations and primary coordinator of the CICD event. “They begin with paid apprenticeships followed by decades as well-paid journey workers and end their careers with retirement benefits.

“We are committed to helping New Jerseyans enter these highly skilled, highly paid careers as union craftworkers,” Schiff continues. “They are extremely well-versed in the latest technology and rigorously trained in best safety practices.”

“Our goal is to provide our employers with the most qualified and productive tradespeople in the industry and to ensure they are professional and knowledgeable,” Local 254’s Anthony Abrantes concludes. “That’s why when it comes to recruitment, our organization not only identifies new potential sources of qualified candidates, it also dedicates the necessary resources to marketing and branding materials that speak to a diverse group of men and women.”

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