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One of Michelle Obama’s State of the Union Guests Was a One-Time Construction Union Apprentice

Epps with U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez.

Epps with U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez.

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Considering this site’s frequent focus on skilled trades apprenticeship, it seems only fitting to celebrate the recognition by the Obama administration of a union apprentice whose live was forever changed by the opportunity to train with the Laborers International Union of America. Below is a press release from North America’s Building Trades Unions telling her tale.


WASHINGTON, DC — LeDaya Epps, one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s guests at tonight’s State of the Union address, was raised in the Los Angeles foster care system until she was a teen. She graduated from high school but found it difficult to find a decent job. As a single mother caring for three children, finding meaningful employment was paramount.

At a job fair in Los Angeles, LeDaya was given an opportunity to enroll in an apprenticeship-readiness program sponsored by the Los Angeles/Orange County Building Trades Council. Such programs are now in operation in over 60 metropolitan areas across the United States and are specifically designed to introduce women, minorities, military veterans, and young people to the idea of a career in the skilled trades.

Upon her completion of the apprenticeship-readiness program, LeDaya was given the option to enter a formal apprenticeship program with the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 300. LeDaya, now 38, is today working on a project to expand the LA Metro light rail train line to Los Angeles International Airport.

“Apprenticeship-readiness and formal apprenticeship programs are proving to be a successful springboard into the middle class for women, minorities and military veterans,” said Sean McGarvey, President of North America’s Building Trades Unions. “From Boston to Seattle, and everywhere in between, our unions are partnering with industry and community leaders, as well as local lawmakers, to create the necessary partnerships that lead to the creation of ‘earn while you learn’ career training pathways — a significant first step on the ladder to the middle class.”

In his State of the Union address, President Obama touted his administration’s efforts to grow the number of registered apprenticeships over the next several years. LeDaya’s story is just one great example of how the Building Trades’ on-the-job training is working for Americans across the country.

“It is refreshing,” said McGarvey, “that the Obama Administration, as well as governors and other elected leaders of all political affiliations in every region of the nation, is coming to more clearly understand the value and usefulness of apprenticeship-readiness and formal apprenticeship programs in terms of building the skilled workforce of the future while simultaneously providing life-altering opportunities for historically disadvantaged communities.”

North America’s Building Trades Unions, in partnership with its signatory contractors, collectively invest over $1 billion annually in the operation of over 1,600 skilled training centers across the United States.


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