It was an historic night for Franklin County’s premier workforce development programs, as both the Building Futures and Driving Futures Programs graduated all-women cohorts.
Building trades leaders, elected officials, political candidates, family members and friends packed into the Teamsters Local 284 Union Hall meeting room on May 4 to witness the graduation of 13 women from the Columbus Building Futures Program and eight from the Driving Futures Program.
It was the first time in the history of either program that an all-women cohort graduated, and based on the feedback from community leaders, will likely not be the last.
For Leland Bass, Program Manager for the Columbus Urban League, it was a proud moment seeing the 21 women earn their certificates.
“We always planned on doing an all-female class, but it was a matter of making sure we did it right,” he said during the ceremony. “This program was specific to you. You are our community, and you hold us up. Now, it’s our turn to hold you up. Don’t limit yourself.”
Bass added the all-female cohorts shattered attendance records.
Participants in the Building Futures Program learn life skills and receive help to overcome obstacles to begin a construction career. The program prepares them to enter a building trades apprenticeship.
Similarly, Driving Futures participants receive help in overcoming career barriers in order to get their Class A Commercial Driver’s License and become a truck driver. Once they receive their class A CDL, the graduates can go to work as members of the Teamsters Union.
Both programs are collaborations of Franklin County, the Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, the Columbus Urban League and the City of Columbus.
Dorsey Hager, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, told graduates the programs succeed only if the participants succeed.
“I was at the North America’s Building Trades Unions Legislative Conference in early April, and labor leaders from all over the U.S. were asking me why we are so successful,” he said addressing the program graduates. “It’s because of you.”
Hager then provided a quick overview of some of the large projects being built and those that will soon break ground.
“All this big work and we have not talked about the infrastructure,” he said. “This region has a plentiful number of jobs. Women currently make up 15 percent of the union construction workforce nationwide, and I know you can help us increase that number.”
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther addressed the graduates.
“This community could not be more proud of you,” Ginther said. “The entire community is in your corner, and we want you to succeed.”
Franklin County Deputy County Administrator and Agency Director Joy Bivens urged the participants to become mentors to girls who may follow in their footsteps.
“We need you to find little girls to mentor,” Bivens said. “There are too many girls who do not have people in their lives to look up to. Find a young girl and mentor her.”
It would be great to see more women in hardhats and more driving big rigs, added Kelly Harrop, C/COBCTC Communications and Outreach Director.
Thanks to generous donations, all graduates received a laptop, portable wi-fi hotspot and a cooler. Additionally, Building Futures graduates also received hand tools, along with a