Building Futures extending regional reach
By Doug LeDuc | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
The Northeast Indiana Building & Construction Trades Council and Northeast Indiana Works are considering the state’s four northeastern most counties for their next round of pre-apprenticeship construction trades training.
The first 10 individuals to complete the free, three-week “Building Futures” program were recognized for the accomplishment during a May 19 ceremony at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast following a mini job fair there.
Representatives of the building trades were there so people completing the pre-apprenticeship could talk to them “and express interest in what kinds of trades they wanted to go into, whether it was to become a carpenter, an electrician or a sheet metal worker,” said Rick Farrant, Northeast Indiana Works spokesman.
Other building trade occupations trainees can pursue include laborers, plumbers, bricklayers, insulators, painters, plasterers, roofers and iron workers.
Building a future
Participating in Building Futures is “almost like going on a three-week job interview,” he said.
“In addition to the skills and knowledge each person will acquire through the program, they are being introduced to people who are already in the trades through instructors.”
The classes offer instruction on communications, quality, blueprint reading, construction math, material handling, problem solving, safety and health and tool utilization.
They also provide an opportunity to complete occupational safety and health administration training and to earn two industry-recognized certifications.
Completing the program better prepares people to go directly to building trades work or to apply for a full apprenticeship. Participants receive a stipend of $100 per week for their time in the program.
Admission to Building Futures requires some vetting. To qualify for it, applicants must be at least 18 and have a high school degree or the equivalent.
They also must pass drug screening as well as basic math and reading tests and have reliable transportation.
“You can’t quite be a construction worker if you can’t get to the worksite,” Farrant said.
An important goal of Building Futures is to improve the diversity of the region’s building trades by getting more minority and women workers into it.
The process of applying for the program can be beneficial even if an applicant is unsuccessful.
“(It) does give us and the building trades an opportunity to talk to these applicants about steps they can take to improve their situation,” he said. “We can let them know how they can prepare and get their high school equivalency or improve their math or reading skills.”
Helping people prepare for the program and eventually gain the skills needed to work in the trades benefits not only the aspiring individuals, but northeast Indiana’s economy and the industries that contribute to it, Farrant said.
The region’s construction industry employment is projected to grow 17 percent during the next decade to about 16,400 jobs from about 13,960 jobs, according to a Northeast Indiana Works analysis.
With a number of major construction projects on the horizon for the region such as riverfront development, the redevelopment of the General Electric campus and Lutheran Health Network’s capital spending, filling the openings as they arise is “important to our economy so the economy keeps growing and we’re able to complete the projects,” Farrant said.
Building a foundation
Also, northeast Indiana trades workers earn an average annual income of $59,000, including benefits. “They are important to the individuals, because they represent self- or family-sustaining careers,” he said.
By going on to a full apprenticeship, individuals can get two years of education at Ivy Tech paid for by the building trades.
“(It is) a good way to avoid college debt and land in an industry with a fair amount of job stability and a good income,” he said.
Ivy Tech is the chief training provider for Building Futures and it receives help with that from the Fort Wayne Urban League. The city of Fort Wayne provides the stipends for Allen County participants. Questa Educational Foundation provided $10,000 for training equipment.
The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership secured $100,000 in additional financial assistance for the program from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and the regional partnership has pledged $150,000 for on-the-job training of program participants who land a building trades job.
With funding in place to train 120, Building Futures expects to offer up to two more rounds of training in Allen County.
It also plans to take the training south and west of the county, in addition to providing a round of training for the area including DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble and Steuben counties.
More information on the program is available at the Northeast Indiana Building & Construction Trades Council website, neibt.org, or by calling it at (260) 489-8574.