Building Futures: Connecting local workers to the green economy

Building Futures

Building Futures students, Site Coordinator & Instructors by S Casaro Dietert – Verona (center) 

The Community Foundation recently completed a three-year partnership with the Community Services Agency of the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO and Jobs for the Future. Made possible by a US Department of Labor Green Jobs Innovation Fund grant, the partnership yielded $875,000 in support for the Community Service Agency’s Building Futures job training program. Building Futures works to connect low-income Washington-area workers to education and training that will help them launch careers in the construction trades. Graduates leave the program armed with a collection of industry certifications including LEED 101, giving them a competitive edge in the jobs market.

Community Services Agency Executive Director Kathleen McKirchy notes, “Being part of this grant has been a tremendous experience for the staff and clients of the CSA Building Futures program.  Our clients have gained new confidence, skills, certifications and jobs, and many have turned their lives around with family-sustaining careers and newfound economic independence as a result of the training funded with this grant.  Our staff has benefited tremendously from the peer learning opportunities and sharing of best practices with our counterparts in other states under this grant, and our program and operations have improved as a result.  We are grateful to the US Department of Labor for funding this initiative, to Jobs for the Future for its national leadership and management of the grants, and to the Community Foundation, National Capital Region for providing oversight, support and lots of technical assistance during the life of this grant!”

To date, 165 workers participated in training with 161 graduating—a 97.5% success rate that speaks to the success of the program’s intensive case management and other supportive services. Further, 120 of these graduates have been placed into employment—a 75% placement rate—ranking Building Futures as one of the most successful programs across all of the Green Jobs Innovation Fund’s sites nationally. Additionally, more than 50 of these placements have been into registered apprenticeships that track workers into high-wage journeyman positions in the construction trades.

Part of the secret to Community Services Agency’s success has been its development of strong relationships with local employers. Recently, CSA partnered with the Center for Energy Workforce Development and Northern Virginia Community College to train a women-only cohort of workers for careers at local utilities.  CSA worked with clients like Verona, who successfully completed the program, and is pursuing a job at Washington Gas, one of CSA’s utility employer partners alongside PEPCO, NPL, and Utiliquest. 

“I got great insights into the companies, what they do, what they can do for me, and what I can do for them,” Verona stated.  “I’m looking to land a line locator or construction helper position- I need full-time stable employment and working for one of the utilities would really be great for me.”  Verona is currently progressing through a 6-month period of blue-collar work that will ultimately qualify her for a full-time position at Washington Gas alongside two other Building Futures participants who have already been hired.

While this grant has now come to a close, Building Futures successfully won several new grants, including funding through the recently awarded City Fund, CityCenterDC Opportunity Grants, and state funding in Maryland through the Maryland EARN program. We’d like to thank the Community Services Agency for its dedication to Washington-area workers over the term of this grant, and to congratulate them on the excellent outcomes they’ve achieved for local jobseekers and construction employers.

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