Construction training program offers
union apprenticeships to Cleveland residents

by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, September 2005) The Union Construction Industry Partnership-Apprenticeship Skill Achievement Program (UCIP-ASAP), which started in October, 2003 to increase the number of Cleveland residents in local building trade unions,  now has 81 graduates. Graduates of the eight-week pre-apprenticeship program are offered the opportunity to obtain an apprenticeship slot in one of 17 construction unions. Each of the 17 unions reserves three slots per year for the program’s graduates. The slots are on a journeyman track so the apprentices can eventually become full union members in line for high-paying union jobs. A new class of 25 is slated to start in September, and another in January of 2006.

The program emerged from discussions between Cleveland City Council members and local construction unions. In the fall of 2003 Council President Frank Jackson was working to pass a law requiring that Cleveland residents receive 20% of the jobs on construction projects where the city of Cleveland contributed $100,000 or more. UCIP-ASAP emerged from the concern of both the unions and city council members that unions would have enough Cleveland residents as members to qualify for those contracts.

When Cleveland City Council passed that law (commonly referred to as the Fannie Lewis law) in January of 2004, UCIP-ASAP was already in place.  In the May 2004 Plain Press, John Kilbane, Secretary Treasurer of the Building Laborers Union Local 310 said the goal of UCIP-ASAP was to have three classes a year with a total of 60 graduates each year.

Nadine Champaigne, who administers UCIP-ASAP for the trade unions, says the program is funded by Cleveland City Council with in kind support from the trade unions. “Both City Council and the unions recognize the value and importance of the program,” Champaigne says, which increases the diversity of the labor pool,  helps screen potential apprentices, and exposes participants to the work of both popular and lesser-known trades.

Program graduates are currently apprentices in 16 different trade unions, according to Rich Haborak, UCIP-ASAP program coordinator and a pipefitter for 25 years. He noted that most union apprenticeships start at a pay rate of $10-15 per hour plus health care coverage and other benefits. Under union rules, apprentices receive regular pay increases based on the number of work and school hours. In the three to five years it can take to become a union journeyman, the regular stepped pay increases bring the apprenticeship pay close to beginning journeyman pay, journeyman level.

About 50% of union apprentices don’t make it through the first and second year, say Haborak. He believes graduates of the UCIP-ASAP will have a better retention rate. He says those attending the UCIP-ASAP pre-apprenticeship program have already come without any pay to 8 weeks of classes from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. He believes these individuals are motivated to do what it takes.

All graduates of UCIP-ASAP are invited to a job club, which meets every four to six weeks to monitor progress and offer support to graduates of the program. “We want them to succeed,” says Haborak.

Haborak described examples of these successes. A recent graduating class of 23 resulted in seven union apprentices in one union. He described how a contractor, impressed with the quality of the graduates from the program, hired them off the street for jobs. They then can enter the union after a probationary period working for the contractor, said Haborak.

The September UCIP-ASAP class already has 550 applicants for about 25 slots, says Haborak. He says the applicants must go through a city and county orientation to assure that they are qualified for the program under the guidelines of the funders. He said in July the city and the county merged their employment readiness offices into one program. He said most of those who qualify for the program live in the city of Cleveland. Funding comes from the city or county depending on the residence of qualified applicants. Haborak says he expects forty or fifty applicants to emerge from orientation process. From that group he expects to interview about 35 people to fill the 25 slots.

The next UCIP-ASAP class will start January 9, 2006. Those interested in obtaining an application to attend that class can stop by the UCIP-ASAP office at 3515 Prospect, Room 204 or call 432-7033.


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