March 2023

‘We’re building our streets’ Building Futures program opens doors to construction industry

“I was actually homeless, I just got out of prison, struggling with alcohol and opioid addiction,” Building Futures graduate Charles Straley said.

Friday, March 3rd 2023 by Kate Siefert

Today, Straley has a successful job in construction. He’s also an instructor for the Building Future’s program.

“I feel great. I feel comfortable and hopeful for my future. Before, I never even thought about a future. I would always just thinking about today.”

“When I teach, it’s a cool moment,” he said. “Just to see their faces when I tell them I had been through it and about my past and where I am at today. That right there speaks miles for them and they are very hopeful for their future.”

Building Futures is a 12-week training program that equips members of underserved communities with the basic construction skills they need for a building trades apprenticeship. After graduating, participants are placed into an apprenticeship program with a local union.

“We’ve had people who have come into the program who have been justice-involved, they’ve been previously incarcerated, we’ve had people who were homeless, didn’t have reliable transportation. We’ve been able to remove all those barriers for them,” Executive Secretary Treasure, Columbus Central Ohio Building Trades Council Dorsey Hager said.

Hager said the program also has a financial literacy component.

“Once you are accepted into the program, you go through four weeks of soft-skill training, financial literacy and then you’ll go through another eight weeks of construction trades core curriculum,” Dorsey explained. “We don’t want someone to complete the program, have an issue arise and then have to go back to poverty. We are trying to end generational poverty.”

It’s putting people directly into the middle class. Giving them a chance to make a good wage, good benefit package and provide for their family and then retire with dignity and respect.

“When I started this program, I never had an insurance card. I never had a 401k. I never had that,” Building Futures graduate Greg Wood said. “I always supported my family, but there was always a consequence behind it.”

Wood said before Building Futures, he was not on a path toward success.

“When I was on the streets, it was wild. It was fast. I was doing the wrong things to make money”

“Now, through building futures, I can build a generation,” Wood said.

Wood described it as ‘building the streets, instead of being on the streets.’ He said he has had a hand in major projects including the Crew Stadium and the Facebook Data Center in New Albany.

“I’m still at the Facebook Data Center,” Wood said. “I’m a labor leader and in charge of about a dozen people. My whole life I grew up in a stereotype. But now I am getting looked at as a leader.”

Wood said his proudest moments now, are driving by some of the buildings he has helped build.

“Daddy helped build that right there,” Wood said describing a conversation he has had with his kids driving around Central Ohio. “It feels good to be like, hey I did that or I did that. That building is going to be there forever.”

As development in Central Ohio continues to expand, Building Futures is also helping generate more employees for the many construction jobs available.

Watch the story here.


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