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Shaquille O’Neal Promoting Newark Pre-Apprenticeship Program to Bolster Building Trades

Shaquille Oneal apprenticeship newark

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Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, together with the city of Newark, NJ, has launched a work program which will help city residents secure apprenticeships in local labor unions.  Known as Project IMPACT, the program facilitates GEDs, prepares students for aptitude tests, and develops basic construction skills.  It will target women, minorities, and veterans to bolster and diversify local industries.  

Upon completion of the Project IMPACT program, graduates will be able to begin apprenticeships in local plumbing, carpentry, and other building trades unions.  For many, the promise of a well-paying union job is the brightest light in an anotherwise gloomy Newark economy.

Eric Rollins, one of the applicants for Project IMPACT, spoke about what the career change would mean to him and his family:

Everybody in Newark knows it’s not really easy to find a good paying job.  $55 an hour? That’s unbelievable. It would change my life drastically.”

O’Neal joined city leaders such as Mayor Ras Baraka for a press conference in the City Hall rotunda. Since taking office last year, Baraka has stressed putting Newark back to work.  In June, the city council passed Baraka legislation that requires contractors working with the city to assign at least 40 percent of the total work hours on a project to city residents.  Those that do not may face possible suspension or termination of their contracts.  Baraka has also worked with the council to find work for those in prisoner re-entry programs. 

“When Newark becomes a great and beautiful city as is happening before our very eyes, the residents can benefit too,” he told reporters.

For O’Neal, participation in the program is a way to give back to his hometown and to find a workforce to complete One Riverview, the long-delayed $68 million residential tower in which O’Neal has invested.  Upon completion, One Riverview will be the first residential tower built in Newark since 1962.  O’Neal has promised to live in the top floor of the building. 

“Newark made me who I am,” O’Neal said. “I just love this city. I’ve been coming back here since 1995. I’ll be here.”

Participants in Project IMPACT will work with the city’s Affirmative Action office for their training.  The aforementioned Eric Rollins, hoping to be one of the program’s first graduates, said he too would like to live in One Riverview some day:

“That’d be beautiful. It’ll definitely be a step up for Newark residents.  I’d be living proof.”

The city is attempting to move its crowning residential project along by granting it a 30-year tax abatement.  The Newark Municipal Council approved a $2 million payment with funds from the car rental tax in order to jump start construction.


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