March 25, 2014

NEW YORK, March 25, 2014 — Just weeks after President Barack Obama announced the creation of “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative aimed at increasing job training opportunities for young black and Latino men, a study released today by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs found that the Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills, an innovative workforce development model for students in New York’s career and technical high schools, has been succeeding in placing minority youth in middle-class careers in the construction industry.

The report was presented today at a publication launch and policy forum at 7 World Trade Center and discussed by leaders from city government, the Building and Construction Trades Council, Building Trades Employers’ Association, and community based organizations.

The Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills was established in 2001 by union construction contractors, organized labor and the city’s Department of Education with the goal of increasing the diversity of the construction trade workforce so that it reflects the city’s diverse population.

The number of young adults out of school and out of work in New York City remains alarmingly high at almost 20 percent. These young adults are geographically concentrated in low-income neighborhoods and are more likely to be black and Latino.  The Construction Skills program has made tremendous strides helping minority youth achieve significant levels of success in entering the middle class.

The report, Expanding Opportunity for Middle Class Jobs In New York City:  Minority Youth Employment in the Building and Construction Trades, was written by Ester Fuchs and Dorian Warren, professors of political science at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

“We are facing a significant employment crisis among youth ages 18 to 24,” said Fuchs, the lead author of the report. “Many of these young men are not aware of the opportunities available to them. Programs like Construction Skills provide a roadmap for placing minority youth in good paying jobs with benefits. By replicating these successful programs, we can begin to combat this growing crisis.”

The report recommends that based on the success of the program and projected growth of the construction industry in New York City:

  • These middle class jobs should be prioritized for graduates of New York City’s public schools.
  • Construction Skills should be expanded by tripling the percentage of apprenticeship openings reserved for high school graduates from 10 percent to 30 percent.  Funding for this expansion should be provided from every level of government, the construction industry and private philanthropy.
  • Expanding the pre-apprenticeship program will require an increase in unionized construction jobs.  The construction labor unions and their employers must work together to implement cost-saving measures in order to increase the number of union construction jobs.
  • Mayor de Blasio should convene a high-level Good Jobs Summit that brings together leaders from the Building and Construction Trade Council unions, Building Trades Employers’ Association union contractors, and real estate industries – including residential, commercial, healthcare and higher education – in order to find ways to expand the number of union construction jobs in New York City and increase minority youth access to these jobs through pre-apprenticeship programs.
  • The Construction Skills pre-apprenticeship program should be adopted as a national model for training minority youth for middle class careers in the construction industry.

An extraordinary return on investment

  • The cost per Construction Skills student placed in a union apprenticeship is $7,500 and increases their lifetime earning potential by 166 percent compared to other high school graduates working as a fast food cook.
  • With the same level of education, a Construction Skills graduate will earn $1.6 million more than a fast food cook over a lifetime of earnings.

Successful outcomes

  • Since its founding in 2001, Construction Skills has placed 1,443 graduates into union apprenticeship programs.
  • Construction Skills successfully targets minority youth and places them in middle class construction jobs, where the average salary is $67,110.
  • High school students that enter the Construction Skills program have a 75 percent completion rate.
  • 82 percent of Construction Skills graduates are placed in union apprenticeship programs.
  • Construction Skills graduates have an 80 percent retention rate as union apprentices or journey workers, a remarkable figure considering the low retention rate of apprentices nationwide.
  • Almost 90 percent of the Construction Skills graduates are black, Hispanic or Asian.
  • Construction Skills participants live in New York City, representing all five boroughs, including 33 percent from Brooklyn, 28 percent from the Bronx, 23 percent from Queens, 10 percent from Manhattan and 6 percent from Staten Island.

The Construction Skills program is unique compared to its counter-parts around the country, particularly in regards to its high school student target population and relationship with union apprenticeship programs. The authors found that Construction Skills is the most successful construction industry pre-apprenticeship program in the country, based on a review of pre-apprenticeship programs in other cities.

Key elements of the Construction Skills program model that have contributed to its success include:

  • The successful program model is a partnership with carefully selected New York City Department of Education Career and Technical Education High Schools, the construction union apprenticeship programs, construction contractors, local government agencies and the non-profit workforce development community.
  • An outreach, eligibility and screening process that is coordinated directly with partner New York City public high schools, where the curriculum prepares students for careers.
  • High standards for participants contribute to the high completion and retention rate in union apprenticeships.  Program eligible students must have a minimum cumulative grade average of 70 percent or higher, a 90 percent attendance record and a demonstrated commitment to pursuing a career in the unionized building and construction trades.
  • A strong working relationship with union apprenticeship programs allows the Construction Skills program to recruit based on an anticipated number of reserved apprenticeship openings, thereby ensuring placements for their graduates.
  • The program received “direct-entry” status from the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) and a commitment from the construction unions that 10 percent of apprenticeship
  • openings would be reserved for public high school graduates that complete the Construction Skills program and meet the apprenticeship requirements.

Other key findings that point to the strength of New York’s construction market

  • The report found that the timing is right to expand successful pre-apprenticeship programs, such as Construction Skills, and provide a path for minority public school youth to the middle-class.
  • The construction industry plays a critical role in New York City’s economy and has long provided a middle-class career path for its unionized workers.
  • With strong growth projections, the industry is poised to add 14,200 new jobs in New York City from 2010-2020, according to the New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL).
  • With an average annual wage of approximately $67,110 for union and non-union members according to the NYS DOL, health and retirement benefits for union members and a low educational barrier to entry, unionized jobs in the construction industry provide an important opportunity for low-income youth and adults to enter the middle class.
  • The New York Building Congress predicts construction spending to have reached $31.5 billion for 2013, a 14 percent increase from the prior year.
  • Employment projections for 2014-2015 are expected to reach the industry’s second and third highest employment totals in the past thirty years.
  • Union apprenticeship programs offer a rare, and in most cases free-of-charge, opportunity to “earn and learn”, providing wages and benefits to workers while they simultaneously learn job-related skills.

“The New York Community Trust works to identify workforce development models to improve job opportunities for minority youth,” said Patricia Jenny, Vice President for Grants at The New York Community Trust, whose New York City Workforce Funders provided a grant for the study.  “We are excited about the tremendous results of this study and look forward to finding ways to build upon Construction Skills’ success.”

The report, Expanding Opportunity for Middle Class Jobs In New York City: Minority Youth Employment in the Building and Construction Trades, was published by Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and funded by the New York City Workforce Development Fund at the New York Community Trust.


Full report


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