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NYC Steamfitters Union Graduates 60% Minority Apprenticeship Class: “This program will change your life.”

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United Association Steamfitters Local 638 graduated twenty members of its rigorous five-year apprenticeship program on Thursday night.  Speakers at the ceremony celebrating the developing plumbers included Gary LaBarbera, President of Building & Construction Trades Council of NY; Patrick Dolan, President of Local 638 and Chairman and Treasurer of Construction Skills; NY State Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Queens-34); Richard Roberts, Business Agent At Large of Local 638, Vice President of the Building & Construction Trades Council of NY and Director of NYC Helmets to Hardhats; Tom Goodwin, Training Director of Local 638; and Anthony Saporito; Executive Vice President of Mechanical Contractors Association of NY, Inc.

The 8,000-member Steamfitters Local 638 performs fire protection and pipefitting work in New York City and the counties of Suffolk and Nassau.  The local union invests over $100,000 in each apprenticeship enrollee.  Their training facility in Long Island City offers both classroom and hands-on training.

This particular class of apprentices shows the union’s commitment to growing diversity in the trades through various programs and outreach efforts.  Sixty percent of the graduates are minorities, Real Estate Rama writes:

25% of the graduates entered the program via the Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills, a pre-apprenticeship program with an objective of attracting New York City public high school seniors, and another through Helmets to Hardhats, a training program to assimilate returning U.S. veterans into the building and construction workforce. Over half the graduates come from minority communities. 30% are African-American, 20% are Hispanic and 10% are Asian.

Victor Tineo, a graduate of the East New York High School of Transit Technology in Brooklyn, entered Local 638’s apprenticeship program through Construction Skills:

When I graduated high school, I didn’t really have a future. Local 638’s apprenticeship program was a way to help my family. My Local 638 classmates have become a second family to me. The program provided me not with only a job, but a career. Now at only age 24, the program has enabled me to purchase a house and get married. It’s truly the American dream.”

Rafael Santiago, a graduate of Ralph McKee Vocational High School in Staten Island, also entered the apprenticeship program through Construction Skills:

“I didn’t know much about steamfitting but after learning more, I realized it was like artwork. From building power plants to heating and cooling systems, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

As an apprentice, Santiago worked on Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, Saint Mary’s Healthcare System for Children in Queens, NYU University and Adelphi University.  Santiago explained the importance of his graduation:

This program will change your life, from the people you meet to how you interact with others, to giving you a better future both financially and mentally.  My next step in Local 638 is going into the field as a Journeyman. I see myself passing down knowledge to future apprentices and the next generation of steamfitters.”


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