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Union-Run “Community Works” Program Creating Employment, Wage Increases for Participants

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In Massachusetts, potential tradesmen and women are being exposed to their first taste of the construction life through the Community Works program.  The program, which helps adults with skills from resumé writing to preparing for union apprenticeship, is a joint effort between The Construction Institute, the Pioneer Valley Building Trades Council, and affiliated Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee’s (JATCs).  The organization is part of a growing movement to help members of the workforce who need more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree.  

This month, the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund announced $4.5 million in grants for such programs. Via MassLive:

After the training, the average hourly wage earned by participants in the 24-member class went up 68 percent, from $10.36 to $17.39. The group went from having a 15 percent employment rate rate to a 74 percent employment rate.

There were 20 job placements, and 78 percent of the adult graduates were accepted into trade-union apprenticeship programs.

Joseph Connolly, director of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Labor-Management Workplace Education program, told MassLive that Community Works is currently looking to fill two 24-seat classes.  After receiving $262,250 in state grant money, the program is effectively funded for the next four years.  Formerly known as Springfield Works, the program changed its name to Community Works after new funding allowed them to expand to Holyoke.

One of the graduates of the program told her story to MassLive.  Aziza Holloway-Abdegeo formerly worked in real estate, but when the economy tanked her industry she needed a change.  She became involved with Community Works and is now a union apprentice in carpentry.  So far, her new position has led her to work on the Rodger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy and the expansion of Forest Park Middle School.  She is hoping to get work on upcoming projects at Springfield’s Union Station and the upcoming casino slated for the area.  

Her new career earns her more than just pride, however. She is currently making $16-$17 an hour with benefits.  

“I needed to know that there is a place for a woman in the trades,” she said. “I need to learn that as a woman I could do this.”


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