Calling it a "Creative Training Partnership that's Working", representatives from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration today joined Building Futures staff, trainees and graduates to highlight the successful implementation of RIDOT's State Transportation Employment Program (STEP), a training initiative funded through the Federal Highway Administration.
The program opened with remarks from Building Futures Director, Andrew L. CortÚs, who then introduced the invited speakers: Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, Senator Jack Reed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Jim Langevin, Providence Mayor Angel Tavares, RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis, and the RI Division Administrator for FHWA, Peter W. Osborn.
The speaking program closed with words from Curtney S. Davis, a Building Futures graduate who had completed the RIDOT/STEP training and, as an apprentice, applied his training during a RIDOT job rebuilding a bridge in Westerly, RI. "Without all of the extra hands-on training, I am absolutely sure that the transition into the construction world would've been a lot more difficult," said Davis.
Guests then were taken on a tour of the 10,000 square foot training facility, the highlight of which was an 80-foot section of a model highway bridge being built by the current Building Futures class who also attended the event. Located in a mill at 39 Manton Avenue in Providence's Olneyville neighborhood, the training space is well suited to RIDOT-related training exercises.
The $138 million in 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that Rhode Island received enabled Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to increase the number of highway projects constructed from 2009-2010.
RIDOT also sought to proactively address the current underutilization of women and minorities in the construction trades working on transportation projects. RIDOT proposed and received a $350,000 ARRA grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that allowed for the procurement of training services from Building Futures, a non-profit community-based initiative that operates the only pre-Apprenticeship program in Rhode Island certified by the State Apprenticeship Council.
As a result, RIDOT increased the efficacy of its On the Job Training and Supportive Services program (OJT/SS) by providing pre-employment training that prepares individuals for the rigors of trade careers while helping road and bridge contractors maximize the benefits of the OJT/SS employment program.
The OJT/SS program is available to contractors to ensure they can provide the critical on the job training needed for minorities and women to develop careers in the construction industry, positioning them to be a part of the economic recovery process and the transportation industry in general.
"Our road and bridge contractors have always wanted to diversify their workforce yet, before the STEP training existed, there was a critical gap in ensuring that those who need career opportunities were truly prepared to succeed in their employment," said Building Futures Director Andrew CortÚs. "As a result of this powerful partnership between RIDOT and Building Futures, this is no longer the case."
Building Futures designed "The ARRA State Transportation Employment Program" (STEP) as a comprehensive and interactive construction training and skills development program tailored to the requirements of RIDOT-related construction projects. Training includes hands-on experience and theory-based learning regarding many aspects of transportation related projects.
"The FHWA is proud of the work that has been done through this partnership and pleased to provide financial support through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)," said Peter Osborn, the RI Division Administrator for FHWA. "In these tough economic times creative programs such as these are key to improving the economic conditions in Rhode Island and nationally. Building Futures and RIDOT are to be commended for training 55 minorities and women, diversifying our workforce, and preparing them for RIDOT-related construction jobs - that is a great return on our investment."
"I am pleased that this collaboration between RIDOT and Building Futures has been so successful in producing well trained and well prepared workers," said Governor Chafee. "This is a partnership that strengthens both our workforce and our important construction industry, and I look forward to its continued positive contributions to the Rhode Island economy."
"I commend Building Futures and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation for implementing a successful work training program for women and minorities," echoed Senator Reed. "STEP demonstrates how the federal government, with the help of state agencies working closely with community organizations, can not only improve Rhode Island's roads and bridges, but also provide job seekers with the life-long skills they need to gain long-term employment."
Having begun in October 2010, this training program continues through May 2012, and is on target to graduate 55 low-income minorities and women. As of December 2011, eight Building Futures graduates had already been placed on RIDOT job sites throughout the State, working on various bridges and roadways, as well as the up-coming Wickford Junction rail station.
"RIDOT looks forward to placing more Building Futures graduates on projects throughout Rhode Island," said RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis. "We always want to use the best trained workers and this program gives them the skills they need to get the job done."
"The State Transportation Employment Program is a great example of what we can achieve when federal, state and community partners work together," said Senator Whitehouse. "I'm fighting hard to secure federal funding to help repair our crumbling roads and bridges, and this program will help ensure that we have an adequate workforce to meet our infrastructure needs."
"The skills gap has had a particularly significant impact on our state, preventing many individuals, especially those from underserved communities, from getting back to work," said Congressman Langevin, who has taken a lead role on workforce development issues as co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus. "This partnership provides an excellent model by using Recovery Act funding to create employment opportunities and develop a qualified workforce to take advantage of them."
While unable to attend, Congressman Cicilline applauded the work of Building Futures and RIDOT as "a winning combination: putting more Rhode Islanders back to work, while also repairing our roads and bridges and providing educational and training opportunities. STEP is a shining example of the results we can achieve if we continue the smart and necessary investments in rebuilding our infrastructure, while providing on the job training and new career pathways for our workforce," said U.S. Congressman David Cicilline, who is a co-sponsor of the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act, the Fix American Schools Today Act, and other infrastructure improvement measures that will generate job growth.
Since 2007, Building Futures has served as an intermediary for the construction industry through its partnerships with private and public industry-related organizations. Its mission is to help the construction industry meet its present and future needs for a skilled workforce, while creating career opportunities for low-income residents through registered apprenticeships.
Over the past four and a half years, Building Futures has placed 100 individuals into one of 11 different construction trade apprenticeships with employment, the first step in a career that offers family sustaining wages with comprehensive benefits and a defined career ladder. By offering continued support after employment, Building Futures has maintained a 90 percent retention rate of its graduates through the critical first year of their apprenticeship.
Program Contact: Andrew L. Cortes, firstname.lastname@example.org , 401-919-5919, Ext. 207 or 401-241-9804 (cell)
Event Contact: Rita L. Holahan, email@example.com , 401-919-5919, Ext. 204 or 401-935-0723 (cell)