On August 20, 2011, MTA New York City Transit workers replaced track sections at the Burke Avenue subway station on Lines 2 and 5 in the Bronx. This photo shows the space that has been cleaned and prepared for the new track structure.
Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Leonard Wiggins.
The Bronx Community College (BCC) announced a new collaboration with Building Skills New York (BSNY) on July 8, an organization that helps New Yorkers find construction jobs in underserved communities. BCC and BSNY will work together to enable skills and career advancement development for workers in the construction industry.
The Construction Career Accelerator (CCA) program, made possible by a grant from the New York State Department of Labor, has two goals: To help BSNY participants who are already on construction sites in the five boroughs acquire the skills they need second, to meet the industry’s need for skilled labor in the face of increasing labor shortages that threatens to slow the city’s much-needed economic recovery.
David Meade is Executive Director of BSNY and said the organization is excited to launch what he called the Bronx Community College, a unique skills training program that will provide world-class instruction to help BSNY attendees the next level in their respective careers.
“The CCA promotes our mission to provide traditionally underserved New Yorkers access to economic mobility and professional development while helping to revitalize their own neighborhoods,” said Meade. “We look forward to repeating this program to develop workers and empower the construction industry at a critical time in the city’s history.”
Meanwhile, BCC President Thomas A. Isekenegbe said the college has a long history of training professionals in New York City that benefits both the workers and the industries in which they work. “We are very excited to have this opportunity to partner with Building Skills New York and bring new talent to the construction companies that help develop our city,” he said.
Scholarships for participation in the CCA program were given to BSNY employees who have already proven themselves in their chosen field and who have expressed interest in advanced training in the fields of electronics, plumbers and carpenters.
Each class takes up to 200 hours of technical training offered by BCC. With the Curriculum National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), the college offers a nationally recognized certification system for construction workers. College officials said the program is a well-respected accreditation process that follows a series of training courses that facilitate gradual acquisition of skills. Courses this summer include NCCER Core Courses, NCCER Electrical Courses, NCCER Carpentry Courses, and NCCER Plumbing Courses.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 security precautions related to the coronavirus pandemic, classes this summer will combine both distance and face-to-face classes. BSNY and BCC staff will take care of case management throughout the apprenticeship and BSNY will work with each trainee on the next steps after graduation to advance in their existing job or in a new position.
BSNY officials said they received support for the program from several councilors representing the Bronx, who BSNY officials said value the job growth and infrastructure opportunities it provides for the neighborhood. District 11 councilor Eric Dinowitz said that while New Yorkers received direct aid such as cash and groceries during the pandemic, jobs were not so easily provided and that the focus on employment should not be forgotten.
“Not only do we need available jobs, but New Yorkers need the education and skills to take on these roles,” he said. “We are grateful for the partnership between the Bronx Community College and Building Skills New York to bring the Bronxites this opportunity.” Dinowitz said the initiative comes at a time when the city is beginning to leave the pandemic behind and behind looking forward to a robust recovery. “It’s been a traumatic year for many New Yorkers, but we’re taking the steps necessary to make a great comeback,” he said.
Meanwhile, District 15 council member Oswald Feliz said Building Skills helped individuals in all five districts build successful, high-paying careers in what he called New York’s growing construction industry.
“I am thrilled that this program gives my constituents access to quality educational courses that will enable them to build their resumes and increase their chances of getting into this sector and growing while at the same time helping their own neighborhoods grow.” he said. “As our post-pandemic economic recovery continues, it is vital that we equip employees with the skills they need to be successful in the long term and that they can take them with them from one job to the next.”
District 14 councilor Fernando Cabrera said he was also incredibly happy to see the new partnership in action. “This new partnership will help people from low-income communities get the experience and education necessary for upward mobility,” he said. “I encourage Bronx residents to apply, and I look forward to seeing where this collaboration leads.”
Vanessa Gibson, alleged Bronx district president and 16th district councilor, said the partnership will provide invaluable skills to Bronx residents that are essential skills to compete in today’s job market. “The construction industry provides our community with the tools to thrive, and this partnership will help remove barriers that have prevented historically underserved and underemployed communities from taking advantage of these opportunities. “
The program was also praised by city council members Rafael Salamanca and Diana Ayala. Meanwhile, BSNY officials said the organization looks forward to expanding the CCA program with some additional partners in the fall. The collaboration with BCC comes at a critical time for the construction industry, which is quickly recovering from being hit hard during the pandemic economic downturn.
A labor shortage that existed before the COVID-19 crisis has worsened over the past year. Construction industry experts predict that companies will have to hire 430,000 more workers than they employed in 2020. Analysis by Associated Builders and Contractors found that every $ 1 billion in additional construction spending creates an average of at least 5,700 jobs.
As reported, the largest “passive house” high-rise in the country will celebrate its premiere in the 425 Grand Concourse in Mott Haven. The project is 75 percent complete and is scheduled to go into operation in spring 2022. Meanwhile, South Bronx’s transformation continues following the recent groundbreaking in May of the new museum that will commemorate the history of hip-hop in the United States in Borough, part of a $ 349 million development known as Bronx Point.
While the availability of construction jobs is clearly good news for the district, there are some lingering health and safety concerns as well. Reportedly, Norwood News spoke to Anthony Williamson, Bronx representative for Local 79, Construction, and General Construction Workers, in May following a string of construction-related accidents at construction sites across the city under investigation by the New York Department of Buildings (DOB) about the dangers these workers face in industry.
Regarding the waterfront construction near the South Bronx in particular, Williamson said at the time, “What is happening here is a mix of skilled and unskilled, trained and unskilled workers, and because of the unskilled workers who work in this area, that has created these things that happened. “
Despite the clear dangers associated with construction, Williamson said that among those construction workers there are some who have no health insurance and are on minimum wages. He added: “We are asking the elected officials to take control of themselves because this is unacceptable. Here you have $ 1 billion worth of hydraulic engineering using unskilled labor. “
In the context of the general discussion about construction in the South Bronx waterfront, Williamson cited Brookfield Properties as an example of a company that he believes is allegedly sacrificing. Norwood News tried to connect with Brookfield Properties for comment at the time, but failed to reach anyone.
Meanwhile, Brookfield Properties officials contacted Norwood News on June 22nd to say they had no record of any contact being made in May. They have also refuted Williamson’s allegations. During our conversation, the company said that there are no untrained workers for their projects, that there are no workers on a minimum wage, and that everyone has received OSHA training.
In addition, according to Brookfield, the company’s subcontractors, under the supervision of the company’s construction management team, conduct toolbox safety interviews and workplace hazard assessments each morning prior to the day’s tasks. Brookfield officials said they have both site safety managers and on-site medics (first aid) at their project sites and that they conduct third party safety inspections at least once a month. The representatives emphasized that security is continuously monitored and reinforced by regular stand-downs in order to focus on specific issues.
Norwood News has contacted Williamson for additional comments based on feedback from Brookfield.