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Union Construction Academy Training New Cohort of Pre-Apprentices

Andy O’Brien
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PHOTO: Pre-apprentices at the Union Construction Academy of Maine.


Below is a report from our Apprenticeship, Workforce & Equity Director Sam Boss:

The Union Construction Academy of Maine is off and running with sixteen pre-apprentices in its fourth cohort of the Union Construction Academy (UCA) pre-apprenticeship program, which began earlier this month in Portland. After receiving nearly one hundred applications for this spring’s sessions, the UCA narrowed the pool down to a highly motivated group that includes individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds and life experiences. They have demonstrated a tremendous level of commitment and enthusiasm as they’ve worked through intensive, daily training sessions.

With help from top-notch instructors from the New England Laborers Training Academy and the New England Carpenters Training Fund, the pre-apprentices have developed skills in construction math and blueprint reading. They have practiced line and grade, framed and hung drywall, and worked with several types of concrete forms. They have already earned three industry-recognized certifications, including OSHA-10, and they will be completing two additional certifications in the remaining two weeks of our program.

In addition to receiving hands-on training and certifications, we work hard to make sure that our pre-apprentices understand the keys to success in the construction industry, the benefits and responsibilities of union membership, and the networks that are available to support them as they transition into their new careers. Over the course of our time together, they have met with representatives from LIUNA 327, Carpenters 349, Millwrights 1121, Ironworkers Local 7 and the Elevator Constructors (IUEC 4). They will also be doing hands-on training with IBEW 1253 and the Painters and Allied Trades DC 35 in the coming weeks.

In order to ensure they understand the full range of opportunities available to them as pre-apprenticeship graduates, the pre-apprentices will also be learning about careers with a range of other Building and Construction Trades Unions, as well as opportunities at BIW, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, MDOT, and public works departments. Of the sixteen pre-apprentices in our group, eleven are people of color, and we were pleased to welcome A. Philip Randolph Institute President Garrett Stewart to speak about the racial justice programs and mentorship opportunities that are available to them through that network.

Speaking about her experiences in the training so far, Patricia Keil of Gardiner talked about how the hands-on training has helped her to build confidence by pushing her outside her comfort zone and giving her the opportunity to try new things with supportive instructors and team members. Kloey Arsenault, the daughter of Luke Arsenault of Ironworkers Local 7, said she has always appreciated the benefits that careers with Union trades can offer, but did not know about the full range of trades and pathways available. 

Pierre Dende, who earned a Masters’ Degree in engineering in his home country of Gabon, said he has loved putting construction math to use to build concrete forms and create a layout for a sidewalk. Pierre and Paul Sekany of Rwanda both talked about how helpful it has been for them to get practice with the imperial system of measurement, as they had only used the metric system previously.

Everyone in the training has expressed how much they have enjoyed working together as part of a team, and how much they have learned by interacting with other people of such varied backgrounds. In addition to all the hands-on skills and certifications they have learned, the appreciation for solidarity that they have already developed will serve them well as they go out to work with our unions.