by Rose Caldwell
SPECIAL TO CATHOLIC CHARITIES from Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope (NOAH)
Congressman Brian Higgins will join with the Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope (NOAH), Laborers’ Local 91, Iron Workers’ Local 9, Catholic Charities of Buffalo and the City of Niagara Falls at 12:45 pm on Friday, August 19th to announce an innovative Pre-Apprenticeship Program. The announcement will occur at the Laborer’s Local 91 Union Hall, located at 4500 Witmer Industrial Estates Road in Niagara Falls.
NOAH is a faith-based, urban and suburban and racially diverse community organizing coalition of over 22 congregations, labor unions and community organizations that collaboratively work for positive social change in Niagara Falls and Niagara County.
NOAH’s work to bring attention to workforce racial disparities at the Amtrak station construction site and across the region culminated at their March 2016 public meeting with sister organization VOICE-Buffalo that featured U.S. Secretary of Labor,
Thomas Perez and Congressman Higgins. The event focused on the need to develop comprehensive workforce development and diversity strategies across the region. NOAH’s work with Mayor Paul Oyster and Niagara area building trades led to the creation of a task force that includes representatives of the above-mentioned unions and organizations.
Recognizing the barriers too many people of color face in pursuing a career in the building trades, the task force developed a Pre-Apprenticeship curriculum that will address these barriers. The program will be supported by a $137,602 federal grant made through the Niagara County Workforce Investment Board to Catholic Charities, which will implement the key components of the program. “This grant fuels the momentum started during the community discussions on workforce development with U.S. Labor Secretary Perez,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “Through this unique collaborative effort, faith-based, labor, government and social service agencies are working together to provide new opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to begin a stable and rewarding career path.”
According to NOAH President, Rev. JoAnne Scott, “NOAH tapped into the interests and the resources of local unions, the Mayor and Catholic Charities. This program will provide essential tools that will help build our people and will revitalize our community.” Laborer’s Local 91 Business Director, Dicky Paladino feels confident that the new program “will provide opportunities to local inner city applicants to become part of a highly trained workforce that helps contractors succeed.”
Catholic Charities will provide instruction, open to youth ages 16 to 24 who are out of school, and are working toward academic goals that include a High School Equivalency certificate. The program will include job readiness and skills training. From there, program graduates will be eligible to enroll to become apprentices in local unions. Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities Dennis C. Walczyk feels proud to be collaborating with NOAH and labor leaders. He states “We are anxious to begin helping young people boost their education and learn job readiness skills – and especially to offer them hope and financial independence. Our long-time success with these services makes us the right partner at the right time.”
Leaders from the task force are very excited to host Congressman Higgins – a champion of regional economic and workforce development initiatives, who will help unveil the pre-apprenticeship program and collaborative team at the press conference on August 19th at 12:45pm.