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Construction Industry Building Its Minority Workforce

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Emmanuel Ikwuegbu
Missouri is making efforts to make the construction industry more accessible and welcoming to women and minorities.

The challenge for people of color and women is finding an accessible entry point to training for jobs including electricians, bricklayers, and pipe fitters.

The St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council realized the need and designed the Building Union Diversity program to help women and minorities succeed in the building trades.

"Years ago we weren't as inclusive," said Jake Hummel, President of the Missouri American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. "We recognize that and we know that we've had to change."

The Building Union Diversity (BUD) program works to remove societal barriers, such as transportation and childcare, which inhibit some minorities groups from accessing construction jobs.

"We've got to make sure people can get into our programs," said Hummel.

Once in the five-week course, which will be launched in Kansas City this fall, participants are introduced to all apprenticeship schools in the construction industry.

"I had zero knowledge about any of the trades," recent BUD graduate Steven Bluett said.

At the completion of the program, which has a 91 percent graduation rate, participants will have an opportunity to immediately apply to an apprenticeship school or be hired on site by a contractor.

"We're excited about bringing this program to Kansas City," said Hummel.

  • Jake Hummel, President of the Missouri American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
  • Steven Bluett, bricklayer and Building Union Diversity graduate
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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Reginald David is an assistant producer with Up To Date. You can reach him at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz