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Unions Back Bill to Provide More Funding for Pre-Apprenticeships

Andy O’Brien
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The Maine AFL-CIO, the Maine Building & Construction Trades Council and IBEW 1253 testified in support of a bill on Wednesday that would provide $12 million to expand certified pre-apprenticeship programs like the Union Construction Academy of Maine. LD 2280 “An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Workforce Through Pre-apprenticeship Training Programs,” sponsored by Sen. Mike Tipping (D-Penobscot Cty.) would allow pre-apprentice training program to use grants from the Maine Apprenticeship Program for tools, personal protective equipment and funding to prepare workers for registered apprenticeships.

Speaking in favor of the the Maine AFL-CIO’s Apprenticeship and Workforce Equity Director Sam Boss noted "Our graduates have included women who have spent their entire lives working in low-wage jobs with no healthcare coverage. We’ve trained refugees from Afghanistan who served with our U.S. military as helicopter pilots and aircraft mechanics, but lacked the certifications they needed to use their skills in the U.S," said Boss. "We’ve trained working class Mainers who were couch surfing because of unstable housing situations, and we’ve worked with people with disabilities that prevented them from getting a fair chance when they interviewed for other opportunities. We’ve worked with highly skilled welders, carpenters, and electricians from all over the world who have ended up in retail jobs because they couldn’t find employers who recognized their past experience and training."

Boss noted that UCA cohorts have included ten women; 38 people of color; eight justice involved people, two with disabilities and two who were unhoused.

Under the proposal, the state would be required to give priority to pre-apprenticeship programs that have strong direct entry links with registered apprenticeship programs, that have a strong total package value and provide opportunities to historically marginalized communities.

Update:  On Thursday afternoon, the committee voted unanimously 10 - 0 to support a slightly amended version of the bill. It now moves forward to the House and Senate and then will need funding.