Denver: Innovative Construction Careers Training

March 30, 2012 -- Partnership for Working Families

Building Trade Leaders Explore Shared Interests in Construction Development

In February, FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities and the Colorado Building and Construction Trades Council hosted a day-long training designed to deepen relationships between construction trades unions and their community partners.

The session, facilitated by Cornell University’s Jeff Grabelsky and the Partnership’s Deputy Director, Kathleen Mulligan-Hansel, focused on engaging the development process in order to ensure that publicly subsidized construction projects create high quality career opportunities. It also provided a forum for thinking about how partnering with community organizations could address the shared self-interest of union and community leaders, and what challenges that partnership might create.

Jeff and Kathleen have delivered this training to over 1000 building trades union leaders over the past two years, but this marked the first time the training was directly connected to a partner campaign. FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities’ Executive Director Kevin Abels and Colorado Building Trades Council Business Manager Neal Hall worked together to bring the training session to Denver.  Both saw the opportunity and increased impact that a collaboration of community and labor leaders could have on lifting Denver’s economy – and improving opportunities for low-income workers and workers of color – by strengthening the regional construction industry.

It’s not an academic discussion. This year, voters in metro Denver will likely be asked to approve a sales tax increase to fund billions of dollars in transit construction and meanwhile other publicly-funded projects, including at least one hotel, are also in the works.  Will public funding create better jobs? Will it create more equity in Denver’s economy?

The training session was part of the larger effort to tackle these questions. We look forward to seeing how FRESC and the Colorado Building Trades Council move forward with their collaboration, hopefully drawing on some of the lessons we all learned together!