ELIZABETH, NJ - Representatives of LIUNA Laborers Local 3 and 77 joined with the Elizabeth Development Company of New Jersey (EDCNJ) on Wednesday to announce the launch of a program to recruit and assist women in Essex and Union County join the construction trades unions. Elected officials from both counties, as well as representatives from the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL), also attended the event.

The event, held in Terminal B of Newark Airport, just yards from where a billion dollar construction project is set to transform the busy airport’s Terminal A, coincided with the beginning of Women’s History Month.

As travelers scrambled to catch flights and retrieve luggage, Bill O’Dea, Executive Director of the EDCNJ, announced the award of a $240,000 grant from the NJDOL to expand the Women in Construction Trades - WICT program. The funds, O’Dea said, will be used to provide training and supportive services to at least 35 eligible applicants so that they can obtain apprenticeships in trades unions including as carpenters, plumbers, and electricians. In addition to providing pre-apprenticeship training, workforce readiness/employability skill development, and a structured work experience that emphasizes vocational-based training for entry-level skills in the construction trade unions, the program will also pay for the union initiation fees, and any costs for taking an apprenticeship test or drug test/physical needed to enter a union’s apprenticeship program.

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“If you don’t put local people to work the impact on the local economy is not what it should be,” O’Dea said offering part of the rational for the program. Additionally, he added, women have traditionally been underrepresented in the construction trades.

Referring to the union whose more than 700,000 members across the nation work mainly in the construction and energy industries, with experience in diverse projects from building roads to constructing solar plants, as “key partners” in the program O’Dea credited LIUNA Local 3 with playing a lead role by committing to accepting at least 20 women into their apprenticeship program.

“LIUNA believes in women, we believe in sharing opportunities for work,” Carl Styles, Business Manager for the union’s Local that represents workers on project south of Middlesex County said. Union membership, he added, means that workers “eat better, live better, and have more opportunities.”

“You can’t achieve diversity without focusing on gender equality,” Paul Roldan, Business Manager of LIUNA Local 3 told TAPinto following the event. “We have long strived to make sure the ranks of our union reflects the communities our members come from and the communities we work in.”

“We look forward to coming closer to achieving that ideal through this program.”

Referring to the salary potential of construction union members Martin Cox, board member of the Newark based International Youth Organization, founded to help improve young people and their families lives to help them realize their full potential and to be productive citizens, said that WICT is a “life changer."

“How many folks in these communities ever dreamed of making $100,000 a year with just a high school diploma” he asked those gathered.

Women interested in applying for the program must reside in Essex or Union County, be over 18 years of age, possess a high school diploma or equivalency and a driver’s license, score a minimum of 7th grade level on the Test of Basic Adult Education (TABE), demonstrate a legitimate interest in pursuing a career in the building and construction trades; and be drug-free throughout training and placement.

Click here to get more information on applying for the WICT program.