With work on the $420 million rebuild of I-64 set to begin in earnest this March, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) has announced a first-ever program to grow a diverse workforce for the project. MODOT has selected PRIDE of St. Louis Inc., the region's venerable construction labor-management organization, to oversee workforce diversity training and employment for the project.
PRIDE developed the program by teaming the region's union construction industry with established career development institutions and agencies. It is the second diversity initiative of 2007 for PRIDE. On Jan. 5, PRIDE unveiled its Regional Union Construction Center (RUCC) incubator, designed to develop a sustainable minority contracting community.
"The Missouri Department of Transportation is pleased with the team PRIDE was able to assemble to assist the I-64 project team in reaching the establish project workforce goals with minorities, females and economically disadvantaged individuals," said Lester Woods, MoDOT's external civil rights administrator. "Every pre-apprentice trained will increase the workforce, which is a complicated task that not one entity can solve alone. This contract focuses on not just training, but placement and retention to increase the success of the individuals in the program. With everyone working together and doing our individual roles in this process, we will see more trained minority and female workers."
MODOT is rebuilding 10 miles of I-64 through the heart of the St. Louis area in a four-year construction project. It has committed $2.5 million for training and employment programs, including wage incentives, to ready prospective workers for heavy highway work.
"MODOT is the first project owner to provide significant funding to grow a diverse workforce for its project," said Jim LaMantia, executive director of PRIDE. "We see this as a historic opportunity to provide an educational foundation for disadvantaged job seekers that they can leverage into rewarding construction careers. This would not have been possible without MODOT's dedication and the commitment of the union-building trades to guide the creation of the best possible pre-apprenticeship training program for heavy highway work."
PRIDE, which stands for Productivity and Responsibility Increase Development and Employment, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year as the nation's first and oldest construction labor-management group. It unites all facets of St. Louis-area construction including union labor, contractors, subcontractors, construction consumers, architects, engineers and construction associations. The PRIDE I-64 diversity workforce development team includes:
• Operation Excel - Part of a national job-training program that began in 1978 to assist disadvantaged youth in developing essential job skills;
• The Construction Careers Center - The nation's first charter high school designed to develop the next generation of construction worker;
• The Regional Center for Education and Work in the College of Education at the University of Missouri - St. Louis - Connects business, labor, social service and education for long-term workforce development and economic improvement; and
•Association for Construction Career Education and Support Services - Will connect all interested individuals to the appropriate career-path information and work opportunities.
Prospective careerists who are qualified will be recruited for the Operation Excel Heavy Highway Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program, an eight-week curriculum that will provide:
• Introduction to skills needed for heavy highway work;
• Physical examinations and drug testing;
• Safety training;
• Complying with industry standards;
• Transportation support;
• Counseling/rehabilitation services; and
• Soft skills training.
According to LaMantia, the program conforms to the high standards of St. Louis union apprenticeship training programs, which for decades have produced the best-trained and safest workforce in the country. It was developed in collaboration with and endorsed by the five basic heavy highway building trades apprenticeship programs, including:
• St. Louis Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Program;
• The Construction Craft Laborer Joint Apprenticeship Training Program;
• Cement Masons Local No. 527 Joint Apprenticeship Training Program;
• Iron Workers Joint Apprenticeship Training Program; and
• Operating Engineers Local 513 Joint Apprenticeship Training Program.
"By assembling the region's most knowledgeable and experienced team in construction and career building, we believe that we have created a model that will not only meet MODOT's goals but that can be applied to other construction projects," said LaMantia.
Planning for the creation of the I-64 workforce development program began in January 2006 in a series of meetings between members of Metropolitan Congregations United, community leaders and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.