Building Trades Employers’ Association (BTEA) president Louis J. Coletti told the U.S. Conference of Mayors that New York City’s thriving construction skills program could be a pathway for other cities to reduce income inequality and create middle class jobs.
The construction skills program is a publicly and privately funded course of study that places graduates in well-paying apprenticeship jobs and serves as the first step on the road to becoming a journey-person in the trade in which they are trained.
“The construction skills model is one which can be replicated in cities across our nation,” said Coletti. “By bringing business, labor and government together as strategic partners, it represents what I believe is the best model not just for the construction industry, but for every sector of the economy.”
The construction skills pre-apprenticeship programs are 88 percent African American, Hispanic and women.
More than 80 percent of construction skills students who graduate the program are placed in apprenticeships that are financed by BTEA contractors and their respective trade unions.
The average union apprentice wage is $34,120, not including health benefits and pension, making it one of the best paying high-growth occupations of the last decade.
Last year, a Columbia University report called the NYC Construction Skills program the “most successful” of its kind in the country.
Coletti said the program works in New York because government is committed to using capital funds to create jobs that boost the middle class.
“Capital investment is about more than just steel, concrete, glass and bricks,” Coletti said. “It is about building the physical and social infrastructure of our city by providing good jobs for those who may not be able to or want to go to college, but who want to pursue living the American dream of leading a middle class life in our city.”
Coletti also discussed an expansion of the construction skills model in a new partnership with New York City’s Department of Education and the City University of New York.
The group will lead a six-year program at a Brooklyn high school where students will receive technical training in architecture, engineering and construction. Students can receive a high school diploma and associate’s degree at no cost.
The Building Trades Employers’ Association consists of 27 trade union contractor associations, representing the 1,700 construction managers, general contractors and specialty subcontractor firms in New York City, who employ 120,000 people.