April 17, 2015
The Urban League of Greater Madison celebrated the graduation of nearly 60 Madison-area residents pursuing careers in the construction industry last week.
As part of the Construction Apprenticeship Readiness Program, the graduates received hands-on training from one of three construction training programs, including Construct-U, Foundations for the Trades Academy or the Latino Academy Bi-Lingual Construction Program.
The programs, which are a partnership between the Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin and the Construction Employment Initiative, provide underrepresented individuals with careers in construction and access to family-sustaining income.
The Urban League’s mission is to ensure that African Americans and others are educated, employed and empowered to live well, advance professionally and contribute to their communities, said Edward Lee, the league’s senior vice president.
“We know that people of color — African Americans in particular — and women are experiencing significantly disproportionate rates of unemployment and underemployment,” he said. “These programs, at their very heart, are exactly the kind of thing that the Urban League’s mission is all about — connecting job seekers with jobs.”
More than 200 people attended the graduation ceremony held last Wednesday, exceeding the CUNA Mutual Group Conference Center’s capacity, causing some of the attendees, including friends, family members and future employers, to stand in the back of the room as the graduates walked.
Mayor Paul Soglin delivered the keynote speech at the ceremony.
"I am delighted to be part of the celebration and am so pleased that these men and women will be part of our local workforce,” he said. “My thanks to the partners and my heartiest congratulations to the graduates."
The local construction industry is facing a potential shortage of workers in the near future due to retirement of the current workforce, said Lee. For this reason, he believes these graduates are essential to the construction industry. The Urban League plans to host additional training programs with employers to prepare them for a more diverse workforce, he added.
Lee hopes the graduates will soon obtain good, family-supporting jobs and begin to build their own businesses in the construction industry. The Urban League’s long-term goal is to build a diverse workforce that positively impacts the Madison community by taking a multi-generational approach.
“We foresee an extreme (employee) shortage (in the construction industry) and we hope our graduates will grow the industry to help close those employment and economic gaps,” said Lee. “We can’t assume that we’ll close the disparities by just making sure that the next generation does well in school — we have to also focus on the current generation. We need to be more holistically focused on the whole family.”
Funding sources for the programs include the City of Madison, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and the Wisconsin Fast Forward Initiative. Partners for the programs include Construction Training, Inc.'s START program, Latino Academy of Workforce Development, Operation Fresh Start, Urban League of Greater Madison, Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin, WorkSmart Network and the YWCA.