October 10, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – The Edward J. Molloy Initiative for Construction Skills, a pre-apprenticeship program that prepares its graduates for union apprenticeships within the construction trade, held its seventh annual award ceremony on Thursday, October 6th, at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
Four honorees received awards for their dedication and help in furthering the goals of the program, which aims to bring diversity to the workforce and opportunity to those in local communities within the five boroughs.
Patrick Dolan Jr., Chairman and Treasurer of Construction Skills and President of Steamfitters Local 638, began the evening by noting that the non-profit program has, as of October 2016, placed 1800 New York City high school students and others into the construction trade. Students take a weeks-long course and are then contacted for apprenticeships within the trade. He was followed by Gary LaBarbera, President and CEO of Construction Skills and President of the Building and Construction Trade Council of Greater New York, who spoke of the program as exemplary, and, according to a study by Columbia University, the most successful in the country. He also thanked the assembled crowd, noting that the event that night had raised over $200,000 to go toward the program. He said that 2017 had been the most robust year for construction spending in the last five decades, in excess of $40 billion dollars, and gave credit to Governor Cuomo for the upsurge. “This gives us the opportunity to give more opportunity to others,” he added, “and we are not just giving them a job, this is a career path.”
New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon spoke next, saying that Cuomo “wants to lift up all New York State, and knows that labor is a big part of that.” She said that members of the building trades are the “most talented workers in the nation,” and, “now we are helping to educate future members that will be a part of building New York,” and called Construction Skills, “a transformational program.”
LaBarbera next introduced the nominees, beginning with Edwin Lopez, Secretary at Construction Skills, a third generation Local 3, I.B.E.W. member, and Executive Secretary of the New York Electrical Contractors Association, as well as the Chapter Manager of The National Electrical Contractors Association, New York City Chapter, a 230-member union trade association. Lopez went through the Electrical Apprenticeship program in 1977, and has been involved in Construction Skills since its beginning, and with its predecessor, Project Pathways. From the podium, Lopez said, “The ability to master a trade is amazing,” and credited his fellow workers for pushing him towards home ownership when he was young. “A high percentage of journeymen in the construction trades are homeowners. Many are community and political activists. It’s a way of life.” He also told LaborPress, “What’s great about being an honoree and being close to the program is I know its value. It’s an honor for me to serve on the board and be part of its important work.”
Honoree Matthew Aracich was introduced next, a man LaBarbera said, “cares deeply about his members,” and is “highly respected among the building trades and employers.” Aracich, Business Manager of Heat & Frost Insulators Local No. 12. Aracich said, “It’s all about labor, opportunity and diversity.” Speaking about how Construction Skills partners with the trades to bring in people that otherwise would not have such options, he said, “We can create a path to the middle class. I accept this award on behalf of Local 12.”
Richard Kennedy, Co-Chief Operating Officer of Skanska USA Building Inc., next received his award. “Graduating from the Construction Skills program is a significant milestone,” he said. You are now ready to enter a career. My experience in this industry is it makes a big difference how you feel about what you do every day. Construction is a great industry filled with fun, interesting people, working on great projects…the sky is the limit for you in this industry, and Construction Skills is the best pre-apprenticeship program in the United States.” He also noted the outstanding diversity of the graduates in the trades, saying, “87% are African-American, Latino, and women.” He urged graduates, some of whom were present, to be ambassadors, saying, “Tell your local elected officials. You are our best spokespeople.”
Nicole A. Bertran, Executive Vice President of Construction Skills, spoke next, and introduced a video about the Sandy Build it Back initiative, whereby funds were provided for construction to homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy. “Adult residents impacted by Sandy in Coney Island, Far Rockaway, and Lower Manhattan [among other areas], were then placed in apprenticeship programs. We placed more than 80 such residents…It is truly awe-inspiring.”
The final honoree was Amy Peterson, Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery. LaBarbera said, in his introduction, “The Build it Back program wouldn’t have happened without Amy Peterson. Her commitment has exceeded all our expectations.” Said Peterson, “I was given the great opportunity to work on the Sandy Build it Back program. We asked, ‘How do we really help the people in these communities?’ The answer was in apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. We set up a new program with Construction Skills, and sat down with the unions so they would be a part of finding a pathway for these residents. I have seen the commitment to diversity.”
LaBarbera closed the event by thanking all the Construction Skills graduates, its Board of Directors and staff, the sponsors, and Business Managers and representatives for all the local unions affiliated with the program.