Trade groups discuss apprenticeships at Meriden training center event

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MERIDEN — Chloe Jackson of East Hampton was 30 years old when she realized she didn’t want a job sitting at a desk eight or nine hours a day.

The communications arts major wanted to be up and using her hands. 

“I changed course,” Jackson said. “I wanted to be a welder. It made me happy to create all those sparks.”

Jackson is a third-year apprentice training at the UA Local 777 training facility on Murdock Avenue and working at her trade for a New Haven company. She’s glad to get the experience and is confident she made the right career choice, she said.

Jackson and other apprentices shared their experiences at a press conference Friday hosted by the Connecticut State Building & Construction Trades Council to bring awareness to unions’ extensive apprenticeship programs. About 100 people attended the event, including contractors, union officials, and state and federal lawmakers. 

Affiliates of the CT Building Trades provide 17 joint apprenticeship training programs to allow workers a pathway to career and financial stability. Union apprenticeships are paid, and graduates finish their programs without any debt. The programs, which include welding, HVAC, plumbing and pipefitting, are entirely run by their respective unions and at no cost to taxpayers, union officials said. 

Buell French, of Hartford, another third-year apprentice, was part of a program offered by the Building Trades Training Institute that conducts outreach in underserved minority and ex-offender communities. French is now an operating engineer in the construction trade, with a pension and health care benefits.  

“Growing up, I made some bad decisions,” French told the crowd. “I had no trade, no certificate. Then I was offered a training course. I was blown away by the countless hours and the machinery. But today, I’m on pace to make more than I’ve ever made in my lifetime. I’m a working class citizen, a taxpayer. I just closed on my first house.”

The unions spend $21 million of self-funding to train thousands of workers annually, said business manager Michael Rosario. The council took in 60 new apprentices last week and more women are in training than ever before. About 3,400 employers employ 4,500 apprentices, said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. 

“This is an incredible opportunity for us in Connecticut,” Bysiewicz said. “We are set to replace 60,000 people in manufacturing and construction fields alone. We need more women involved so they can be part of this national movement. These are great paying jobs.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, sits on the Armed Services Committee where decisions about government contracts are made. When making the case for Connecticut companies such as Electric Boat or Sikorsky, Blumenthal is often asked “Are you going to have the people with the right skills?” Blumenthal told the crowd.

He also shared details about a new program called Helmets to Hardhats, which offers outreach services to returning and active military personnel to prepare them in the private sector. 

“Building trades are essential to our national security,” Blumenthal said. “We need to do so much more to reach out to them.”

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz


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