March 31, 2017
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Hauppauge, NY - The number of apprentices in Long Island’s building trades has increased by 54% in the last five years, aided by programs like Opportunities Long Island, local construction unions’ free pre-apprenticeship program.
The eight-week program was founded two years ago to help ensure that several large proposed development projects would both use union labor and hire local residents. “We created Opportunities Long Island to address the community benefits requirement, and to give disadvantaged people in these communities the skills so that they can continue to work after the project is done—because they are members of the union,” said Richard O’Kane, president of the Nassau-Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council. So far, four-fifths of its 30 graduates have union apprenticeships. “I now have a career,” Femi Ayodele of Central Islip, an apprentice with Local 25 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, told Newsday. Ayodele, 30, was making $12 an hour at his last job. He’s now earning $17.85 plus benefits, and that will go up to $51 when he finishes the five-year apprenticeship. And last year, when he took his one-year-old daughter to the new Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Valley Stream, he “pointed to the lights in the ceiling and told her, ‘I did this,’” he says. “It was a great feeling.” Read more