Thu July 26, 2012
ROAR Graduates Compete for City School Construction Jobs
This summer, the Rochester City School District is stating a multi-year, 325 million dollar building modernization project.
The district is required by law to try and find ways to put more women and minority construction workers on the project. So city and district officials created the pre-apprenticeship program ROAR to train hundreds of city residents in the construction trades.
In her first report, WXXI's Carlet Cleare reported on that plan to increase diversity hiring. In this second report, Carlet investigates whether that plan will really put more women and minorities on the job.
Training at the ROAR academy is wrapping up. Friday’s the last day participants will paint walls, run electrical wires and learn from union instructors. Next, they’re off into the construction world.
“I want to stand out, not just because I’m a woman but because of my good work quality and good work ethics,” says Erika Davis, who’s been with the program since February.
"What we are guaranteeing truly is an opportunity,” says Nicole Jefferson’s company is providing the training. “What we are not guaranteeing is a job. They have to compete with one another to get it. We consider this like the American Idol of jobs."
Jefferson says graduates have already applied at the various union halls hoping be accepted.
"We try to move them faster through the process than any other place because we have the people actually from the union. So it speeds up the process."
If accepted into the union, participants become first-year apprentices. They’ll be placed on a list. Then, it’s up to contractors to hire them.
“There’s a list of 100. Somebody’s first, somebody’s l00. Right," says Ken Warner, president of the labor management group UNICON.
“That guy, he may not work until next year. But the guys who are higher on the list because of their skills and experience and the things that they’ve done, they’re going to get to work.”
Warner says there’s a good chance many of the graduates will get called to work on a job. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 461 semi-skilled minorities working in Rochester. That’s compared with 1,800 Caucasian workers. Warner says there’s a reason for that.
“People don’t want to hire a black guy. People don’t want hire a Latino. It’s just the reality of it,” Warner says. “Now they’ll tell you that they will… but the reality is that when it comes right down to it, there is still prejudice in this country that people don’t want to face.
Warner says increasing the number of minorities working in the construction trades isn’t going to happen overnight. But the pre-apprenticeship program is a start. He says one good thing about the school’s modernization project is contractors have to hire minorities or lose the job.
"Part of the worst thing that could happen in my mind,” says Brian Roulin, who sits on the board overseeing the school district’s renovation project. “Would be to have graduates coming out of this program, who sacrificed to do this, and then found out they did it for nothing, not."
Roulin says he’s concerned there may be more graduates than work on school buildings.
"We're going to within the next 3 or 4 months, all 6 projects will be underway. We cannot accommodate 200 some people into our program.”
Roulin says he’s trying to get the University of Rochester or the Greater Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority to hire some of the graduates to work on their projects. Meanwhile, Davis says she’s not worried.
"I don't let that discourage me at all,” Davis says. “Any skill that I obtain and lean here I could always go out and utilize my skills, anything that I get from this program."
Now it’s the waiting game.