Job seekers, high school graduates can get training to build LRT extensions

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Date: 4/18/2017

LRT BUILD PROGRAM

Training partners: McKnight Foundation, Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, Construction Careers Foundation, Twin Cities R!SE, North Hennepin Community College and Hennepin-Carver Workforce Development Board

Eligible job seekers: Unemployed and underemployed adults; students about to graduate from high school

Goal: Prepare people to become construction apprentices so they can get work on other construction projects that could lead to work on one of the LRT extension projects

Extending the two light rail transit lines in the Twin Cities will create work for 14,000 construction jobs. It will be an opportunity for job seekers with the proper training who are looking to start a new career, increase their pay scale or are graduating soon from high school.

To help people develop the skills to land these construction jobs, the Metropolitan Council and its Southwest Project Office are working with several organizations to offer 10 weeks of free union-led training for up to 80 people and six weeks of training for 10 soon-to-be high school graduates.

The apprenticeship preparatory training, known as the LRT BUILD Program, is worth up to $4,000 per person. Students must have a high school diploma by June or a GED, be at least 18 and currently work no more than part-time.

“The goal is to prepare people to become apprentices at the end of the 10-week programs,” said Jon Vang, a Metropolitan Council equal opportunity consultant assigned to the two LRT projects. “We are trying to add workers in preparation for construction of the Southwest and Blue Line Extension LRT Projects.”

First training round begins April 17

Jon Vang, equal opportunity consultant for the Metropolitan Council, at a Great Minds workshop in Minneapolis earlier this year where participants noted the need for training opportunities.The first 10-week training round begins April 17 for 40 unemployed and underemployed adults. The second 10-week training program for an additional 40 people begins June 5, and the application deadline is May 26. For 2017 high school graduates, their six-week course begins July 10 and the application deadline is June 23.

Learn more and apply here for either the 10-week or six-week program.  For more information, email LRTBUILD@metrotransit.org or call 651-308-8554.

Unions designed the training programs

The program is offered in partnership with the McKnight Foundation, Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, Construction Careers Foundation, Twin Cities R!SE, North Hennepin Community College and Hennepin-Carver Workforce Development Board. The training program is modeled after Metro Transit’s bus mechanic and LRT mechanic training programs.

“As we developed this program, we brought in the unions and asked, ‘What do you need?’ They helped us design the program,” Vang said.

For construction of Southwest LRT, an extension of METRO Green Line, and the Blue Line Extension, contractors will need to hire laborers, carpenters, ironworkers, masons and crane and heavy equipment operators to break ground and build tunnels, bridges, retaining walls and stations.

Soft-skill training helps with job retention

In the first four weeks of the 10-week training program, students will attend Twin Cities R!SE, a program  in north Minneapolis that helps individuals achieve long-term job success, for two half-days a week. They will develop communication, interviewing and time management skills and identify their strengths that they can leverage in a new career. Diversion Solutions will work with people with revoked or suspended driver’s licenses to reinstate them through their Driver’s License Reinstatement Program.

Twin Cities R!SE focuses on “the soft skills that employers don’t have time to teach,” said Vincent M. Fuller, the special projects manager who teaches personal empowerment for the 22-year-old organization. “We make sure the individual who goes through our program has good communications skills.”

It’s an about-face from the organization’s early days when they focused on teaching hard skills and found their participants were losing their jobs within the first six months of employment because they lacked soft skills, such as self-awareness, self-control, verbal and nonverbal communication skills and assertiveness, Fuller said.  When they switched to teaching soft skills, “we improved the one-year retention rate for people.”

Construction basics are also core to the program

In the next four weeks, students attend North Hennepin Community College Monday through Friday afternoons to learn construction basics and construction math, receive 10 hours of Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) safety training and learn how to read blueprints.

Over the last two weeks, they will visit various union training facilities for hands-on learning and meet union representatives and contractors. One such facility trainees will visit is known as the “sandbox,” which is run by Local 49 of the International Union of Operating Engineers in Hinckley where they will get a chance to operate cranes.

For the soon-to-be high school graduates, their six-week training program will consist of four weeks of core construction training in a classroom at North Hennepin Community College and two weeks of hands-on learning at the construction training facilities.

Depending on the apprenticeship program that the graduates enter, wages for apprentices in key construction fields start at more than $18 an hour.

“Becoming an apprentice will help them get work on other construction projects that could lead to work on one of the LRT extension projects,” Vang said.

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Tags: SWLRT, BLLRT, LRT Build

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