Chicago has plenty of job opportunities in the construction trades

A recent study funded by the National Association of Home Builders found that most young adults, particularly those from diverse backgrounds, aren’t aware of career opportunities in construction trades.

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Workers install windows in a townhome complex under construction on May 15, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The National Association of Home Builders said today that its housing-market index rose by two points in May, a signal of a strengthening housing market. New home construction statistics for April will be released by the United States Census Bureau on May 16.

Workers install windows in a townhome complex under construction on May 15, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

Getty

Chicago is currently experiencing a once-in-a-generation boom in real estate development. With over $100 billion in transformative new projects underway or on the horizon, there’s an abundance of opportunity for Chicagoans who work, or want to work, in the construction trades.

A recent study funded by the National Association of Home Builders found that most young adults, particularly those from diverse backgrounds, aren’t aware of career opportunities in construction. This is a big miss for our local economy, which will require a robust pipeline of skilled talent to keep the momentum going.

At HIRE360, we are working to address this lack of awareness. Our recruiters work with individuals interested in the trades to identify their challenges, goals and interests. We explore the dozens of different construction trades and work with our union partners to help candidates apply for apprenticeships.

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We also strip away financial barriers to participating in apprenticeships through our Barrier Reduction Fund, which covers the costs of application fees, a first set of tools, boots, and any other required resources. Our apprentices go on to “earn while they learn,” completing paid on-the-job training and becoming eligible for highly skilled jobs with attractive health care packages and pensions.

Once apprenticeship training is complete, getting connected to contracting firms that are hiring full-time tradespeople is the next step.

That’s why our organization strategically partners with local development firms like Sterling Bay, which recently kicked off its Lincoln Yards project creating roughly 10,000 construction jobs over the next decade. Sterling Bay and its contracting partners are building a project workforce that reflects our city and expands employment opportunities for underrepresented residents. Through partnerships like this one, HIRE360 can provide participants with direct connections to firms that offer gainful employment, a critical step in supporting the growth of individuals and also strengthening our city’s communities.

Jay Rowell, executive director, HIRE360

Discomfort and diversity

I can verify the accuracy of Rummana Hussain’s opinion piece about experiencing discomfort as a person of color. I was an art teacher at Niles West at the time and I attended the pep assembly she describes. I couldn’t believe my ears! He actually did say “I want to see your shining white faces in a sea of hostile Black faces.”

When the rally ended, a colleague and I went straight to the principal’s office to complain. We were met with deaf ears. The principal was a man who always closed assemblies of this same ethnically, racially and religiously diverse student body with a Christian prayer. It’s a sad fact that all these years later, many Americans still just don’t get it, and that should be cause for universal discomfort.

Richard Wetzel, Old Town

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