Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) announced that it received a state grant to expand its childcare access program on Tuesday.

NEW’s President Leah Rambo, who took her post earlier this year, has boosted childcare services as a priority for the organization, a pre-apprenticeship program that helps women get into careers in the union construction, utility, and maintenance trades.

“We do this so that women can have economic independence for their families. Workers in the building trades have a lot of barriers when it comes to getting childcare for themselves and their family,” Rambo said. “And part of this has to do with the times that we start working very early. You have to travel all across the city and even outside of the city to get to jobs and over time.”

The state legislature and Department of Labor funded childcare program this year to the tune of $375,000. State Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Harry Bronson, who pushed for the funding, and construction industry leader Gary LaBarbera underscored the point that providing childcare support is crucial to diversifying the city’s trade unions.

New York City’s high cost of childcare can create extra barriers to both apprentices that are earning relatively low wages and journey-level workers that have higher pay but are not eligible for subsidies to reduce costs. NEW’s staff helps graduates find affordable services that meet their needs, and subsidizes the costs with the state grant funding.

“We wanted to make sure that NEW had all of the tools necessary in order to invite more women into the program because we are hoping to have lots of shovels in the ground very, very quickly,” Ramos said, asserting that getting more workers into the construction trades is critical to the housing crisis and the climate change crisis in New York City.

It’s the second year that the legislature has awarded NEW childcare funding, but in the past it has gone only to those in the building and construction trades. This year’s funding will not only  assist NEW graduates that are in utilities, maintenance and transportation unions, but the nonprofit will also work with a collective of other pre-apprenticeship programs that target specific underserved populations in order to assist outside members who also need childcare help.

“Without that childcare, these situations create barriers and hurdles for women and families, and frankly men as well who may be single parents, to come into the industry. What our goal is to remove as many barriers as possible on all fronts,” said LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.

Melissa Castillo, an IBEW Local 3 member and single parent, said that the grant has lifted a huge burden.

“This grant comes in every two weeks, and I’m very faithful because it’s just like one less stress. So already a lot of things that I have to consider and juggle financially,” Castillo said.

Shira Levine, a Local One plumber, said that the childcare funding allowed her family to keep up with their finances.

“I knew that I still have this, there’s a way of maintaining not falling behind, but maintaining where I was and keep moving forward,” Levine said.

NEW receives state childcare grant, left, NEW’s President Leah Rambo, left center Sen. Jessica Ramos, center, Gary LaBarbera
NEW graduates Melissa Castillo, left, and Shira Levine, right
State Sen. Jessica Ramos, center left, presents childcare funding to NEW


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