Queens, NY – After a long and difficult struggle, 696 Build Queensbridge Director K. Bain and Laborers Local 79 organizer Bernard Callegari have succeeded in bringing a neighborhood-based pre-apprenticeship program to one of the most underserved communities in the city.
About 100 young men and women, mainly residents of the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, attended a Pathways to Apprenticeship [P2A] information session held at the Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settlement on 41st Avenue last week, eager to learn how to land one of the 20-25 spots available in P2A’s next direct entry class beginning February 10.
“We want to see people who have been historically denied opportunities to become homeowners,” Bain told LaborPress. “We want to see people who have been historically disenfranchised be a part of generating wealth and everything that this country promises — and that we all deserve and search after.”
Classes held at the nearby Fortune Society on Northern Boulevard will challenge students over the course of five weeks, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., schooling them in everything from blueprint reading to mastering trade unionist language and lingo.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the young men and women of Queensbridge Houses,” Queensbridge Houses Tenants Association President April Simpson told LaborPress. “It’s not a job — it’s a career. They can get jobs that will lead into careers that can be permanent — and that’s the difference. That’s the benefit — that’s the opportunity.”
Organizers stress “transformation” is the watchword for the entire 5-week course.
“You will be undergoing a transformative process,” Retired Carpenters Director of Training Elly Spicer promised applicants.
While a criminal record won’t disqualify anyone from securing a spot in the P2A class, all applicants must be drug free by the time the couse is completed on March 16.
“There’s no use applying unless you are willing to change that part of your lifestyle,” Spicer said — but adding, “Those that stick with us, we stick with them.”
Callegari came up in the Queensbridge Houses in the 1980s, and had to overcome numerous run ins with the law and substance abuse issues before joining the ranks of the trade unionist movement — and he’s determined to help other hard-pressed Queensbridge residents do the same.
“One of the reasons that’s not my story [today] is I have a union book,” Callegari told the applicants. “If someone cracks the door open for you, you should kick it in. Queensbridge doesn’t get its fair share of opportunity – today, that changes.”
A wide variety of Building Trades are participating in the P2A pre-apprentice course. Students will have an opportunity to not only meet and talk with the different representatives, but tour their training facilities as well.
The P2A interview process began this week.
Both Bain and Callegari are shooting to achieve a 100-percent graduation rate.
“I know that sounds audacious, but that’s the goal,” said Bain.
For more information about Pathways to Apprenticeship, email firstname.lastname@example.org.